UAE issues landmark reforms to civil, criminal law

Marie Nammour /Dubai Filed on November 7, 2020
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This follows a decree by the President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The UAE has announced landmark reforms that cover inheritance, women's safety, suicide, Good Samaritans and alcohol consumption.

These changes to the personal and civil code will make it easier for expats to resolve disputes and promote multiculturalism.

This follows a decree by the President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the amendments come into effect immediately.

The amendments have been introduced to some of the terms in the Personal Status Law, the Civil Procedure Law, the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Law.

On expats' wills and inheritance

With these changes, non-Emiratis may now use the laws of their home countries in dealing with affairs like inheritance. At the time of an expat's death, wills and estates can be managed based on the Personal Status Law of his/her country of nationality. However, if a will is already in place, then it shall be followed and respected.

On suicide

Suicide attempts and self-harm are usually punishable by law. Now, under the changes, people found to have harmed themselves shall be referred for mental health treatment.

On Good Samaritans

People, who tried to help others but have instead inflicted unintended harm, won't be held accountable under the new modifications.

On honour killings

For the honour killings, leniency has been abolished and cases will now be entirely subject to the penal code.

On alcohol consumption

Alcohol consumption is no longer a crime, as per the changes. Previously, a person found in possession of alcohol may be charged if he was caught in another criminal incident.

As per the law, one has to be at least 21 years old to be able to drink legally. Alcohol can be consumed only in private or in public at licensed businesses.

On cohabitation for unmarried couples

For the first time, cohabitation for unmarried couples has been allowed under the new law. Unmarried couples sharing the same accommodation used to be prohibited. The same used to apply to unrelated flatmates.


Marie Nammour

Originally from Lebanon, Marie has been covering the Dubai Courts and the Public Prosecution, immigration and labour issues often, Lebanese community-related affairs and the Dubai International Film Festival. A graduate from the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Jounieh, a city to the north of Beirut, Marie worked as an in-house reporter, covering international affairs for the LBCI and the LBC Sat (Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International), a leading TV station back home and a legal translator for Sagesse, a renowned law college in the heart of the Lebanese capital. Marie speaks fluently Arabic, French, English and Spanish. She is fond of travelling, psychology, learning more and of the French literature.

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