REEDOM ON THE
pursued for political reasons.
In 2012, the president of the UAE appointed himself as head of the
judiciary, overtaking the position of the minister of justice.
Human rights groups have
continuously criticized the UAE for violating the human rights of political detainees and failing to
provide them with fair and transparent trials. Instead, many are denied access to a lawyer, held
without cause for extended periods of time, or tortured.
Furthermore, former detainees who
have since been pardoned
are continually harassed and do not enjoy their full rights as citizens.
Articles 8 and 176 of the penal code are used to punish public “insults” of the country’s top officials,
although these are widely used to prosecute any users that express a desire for political reform.
Articles 70 and 71 of the 1980 publishing law prohibit criticism of the head of the state and of Islam
or any other religion.
Defamation laws have been criticized by lawyers as “all-encompassing” and
clouded with many grey areas. The burden of proof is also upon the defendant. Penalties can be as
high as two years imprisonment or a fine of AED 20,000 ($5,444).
In January 2011, the editor of
Hetta.com was fined and his website was blocked for a month after a court upheld a defamation suit
brought by the Abu Dhabi Media Company over defamatory and offensive user comments on the
In July 2011, Abu Dhabi police warned that spreading rumors through text messages
constitutes libel and can be punishable by up to three years in jail.
A new cybercrime law was issued in November 2012, replacing an earlier decree from 2006 that
was criticized for being too vague.
While the introduction of the law was fundamental in
providing a sounder legal basis to combat online fraud, money laundering, hacking, and other
serious cybercrimes, the law also criminalizes a wide range of online activity commonly accepted
within international norms. For example, hefty fines and jail sentences await users who engage in
online gambling, disseminate pornographic material, or violate another person’s privacy through
posting their photograph or making statements about them online, regardless of the accuracy of the
accusations. Intermediaries, such as domain hosts or administrators, are also liable if their websites
are used to “prompt riot, hatred, racism, sectarianism, or damage the national unity or social peace
Human Rights Watch, “UAE: Investigate Threats against ‘UAE 5’,” November 25, 2011,
Emirates 24/7, “UAE to give judiciary greater autonomy,” June 27, 2012. http://www.emirates247.com/news/emirates/uae‐
Rori Donaghy, “Torture in the United Arab Emirates,” HuffingtonPost.co.uk, September 24, 2012,
Human Rights Watch, "UAE: Free Speech Under Attack: Harassment, Arrests, Criminal Prosecutions," January 25, 2012.
Sara Yasin, “UAE 5 still face restrictions after pardon,” Index on Censorship, accessed August 1, 2013,
Human Rights Watch, “UAE: Free Speech Under Attack,” January 25, 2012. http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/01/25/uae‐free‐
“Publications and Publishing Law 1980,” accessed in June 25, 2013, http://nmc.gov.ae/en/MediaLawsAndRegulation/4.pdf
Kevin Brass, "Defamation laws keep the aggrieved quiet," The National, November 8, 2011
Reporters Without Boarders. “Countries Under Surveillance: United Arab Emirates.” March 11, 2011.
Abdulla Rasheed, "Misuse of instant messaging services punishable by law," Gulf News, July 26, 2011
Awad Mustafa and Ramona Ruiz. “Cyber‐crime law to fight internet abuse and protect privacy in the UAE.” November 13,