Expats facing trial in the UAE hail legal reforms
Those already found guilty and serving jail terms are looking to challenge their conviction rulings.
Expats on trial for acts recently decriminalised in the UAE are feeling a sense of relief while attending the legal proceedings of their cases.
Those already found guilty and serving jail terms are looking to challenge their conviction rulings, thanks to the recent reforms in the country’s laws. “I was sentenced to one month in jail followed by deportation for a charge of sex out of the wedlock and lost the appeal. Thanks to the new law, the whole case will now be closed if the law gets into effect before the final ruling,” said an expat caught in legal turmoil.
Lawyers told Khaleej Times that deportation can be abolished if a new law is issued that decriminalises the act and the case is still examined at the courts.
Emirati lawyer Abdel Monem bin Suwaidan of Bin Suwaidan Firm for Advocates and Legal Counsels told Khaleej Times that the law, favourable to the defendant will apply in legal proceedings. “If a person is sentenced for a criminal act and during the trial — whether at the appeal or cassation stages — a new law is issued that decriminalises such act, the accused may benefit from the new amendments and the penalties shall be lifted.” The amendments apply with retrospective effect if it is in the defendant’s interest.
Not applicable if verdict is issued
“If the final verdict has already been issued against a defendant — for an act committed and was then criminalised — and the case ruling gets into execution, the new law that decriminalises the act shall not apply,” he added.
Egyptian lawyer Hani Hammouda of Kefah Al Zaabi Law Firm explained that as per Articles 12 and 13 of the UAE Federal Penal Code, a crime is punishable pursuant to the law that is enforced at the time it is carried out. “Article 13 of the same law says that if after the crime takes place and before a final verdict is issued, a law is enacted and it is in the best interest of the accused, then it shall be applied,” he added.
How the ‘most favourable’ law applies...
Explaining the general rule “the law that is the most favourable for the defendant shall apply”, Emirati lawyer Abdel Monem bin Suwaidan of Bin Suwaidan Firm for Advocates and Legal Counsels said: “For example, drug use is punishable by four-year imprisonment, then the law changes and the penalty is reduced to six months in jail, then the defendant benefits of the new law.
The law is “most favourable” if it secures a better status for the accused in the case; if it decriminalises some acts, or cancels or reduces some penalties or defines a certain aspect for exemption from criminal responsibility. Such new law shall apply – in preference over an old law — as it is the most beneficial for the accused, said Egyptian lawyer Hani Hammouda.
“If a new amendment to the law stiffens, however, a penalty for drug use, a defendant’s previous ruling shall apply,” Suwaidan added.
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