UAE: Defendant on trial for capital offences must have a lawyer

State bears costs of appointing lawyer if they are unable to appoint one for themselves due to financial constraints.

File photo
File photo

Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Tue 15 Feb 2022, 3:59 PM

Last updated: Tue 15 Feb 2022, 4:11 PM

It is vital that people involved in criminal or capital offences attracting stiff penalties, including the death sentence, must have a lawyer to defend them in court, Abu Dhabi’s top court has re-affirmed.

While cancelling an appeals court ruling and ordering for a fresh hearing of the case in which an Asian man was sentenced to three years in jail followed by a deportation, the Court of Cassation said defendants in criminal offences with heavy punishments such as death sentence or life imprisonment must have a lawyer to defend them in courts at all stages of the trial.

The law stipulates that the state bears the costs of appointing a lawyer to defend the accused if they are unable to appoint one for themselves due to financial constraints.

Court details stated that public prosecutors had referred the Asian man to Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance on charges of attempting to kill his friend of the same nationality. The man had tried to kill the victim when he was sleeping by stabbing him several times in the stomach with a kitchen knife.

The profusely bleeding Asian victim was rushed to hospital, and his condition improved after treatment.

The Court of First Instance had earlier sentenced the attacker to three years in jail and deportation after the term. He was also ordered to pay Dh20,000 to the victim as compensation for the first-degree injuries.

The man challenged the sentence in the appeals court which upheld the verdict by the first instance court. However, he didn’t have a lawyer to represent him in the appeals court. He approached the Cassation Court, where he was represented by lawyer Rabia Abdel Rahman.

She argued that the appeals court ruling which upheld the sentence by the first instance court violated the law related to public order, as Article 41 of the Federal Criminal Procedure Code stipulates that; “All accused persons in a felony punishable by death or life imprisonment, must have a lawyer to defend him in court at all stages of the trial.”

“This means that the person accused of a felony may not be tried, except in the presence of a lawyer who will represent him and submit his defence memoranda,” said Adel Rahman.

“It is clear from the documents that the defendant had a lawyer in the court of first instance. But the appeals court did not assign a lawyer to defend him, which is a violation of the application of the law and the ruling should be overturned.”


After hearing the lawyer’s arguments, the judge cancelled the appeals court verdict and ordered for a fresh hearing in the appeals court.

The Court of Cassation said that the appeals court did not appoint a lawyer to defend the accused, which is detrimental to the trial procedures and in violation of a fundamental rule of litigation related to public order.

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