In line with the UAE’s ongoing endeavours to develop its legislative foundations and its status as global destination for foreign investment and expertise, President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has issued a number of presidential decrees amending some articles in the Personal Status Law, the Federal Penal Code, and the Federal Penal Procedural Law.
The decrees, which details changes in the laws concerning such vital matters as expatriates’ wills and inheritance, marriage and divorce, the indecency laws, sexual and harassment crimes including the so-called ‘honour crimes’, among others, have been issued to enhance the legislative foundations in line with the country’s commitment to and belief in tolerance principles that are in accordance with the UAE’s cultural identity and to boost its status and capability as one of the world’s most attractive destinations socially and economically for foreign expertise and investment.
The new amendments in the Personal Status Code and the Civil Law gives the expatriates living in the UAE the option to choose the law that would be applied to their inheritance in order to ensure the stability of the financial interests of the foreign investors in the country. As thus, the new changes stipulate that the inheritance would be dealt with as per the nationality of the deceased person at the time of his death. As for the general terms of the will and other post-mortem terms, they would be dealt with according to the law of the country specified in the will. If that condition is not specifically mentioned in the will, the law of the country of nationality the deceased person at the time of his death will be applied.
For an expatriate’s will involving their real estate property in the UAE, the UAE laws will be applied.
New changes the Personal Status Code stipulate that the laws of the country in which the marriage took place would be applied with regards to the marriage terms instead of the previous provisions which applied the laws of each spouse’ country of nationality.
Another amendment stipulates that the law of the country in which the marriage took place would also be applied with regards to the personal and financial terms of the marriage contract, the divorce or the separation agreement instead of the law of the country of the husband’s nationality at the time of the marriage, divorce or the initiation of the legal procedures.
New changes in the Civil Law now allow one partner in a venture to sell the entire venture, following a request to a judge, in case they are not able to sell their share in the venture to another partner. The price would be divided among the partners as per the value of each.
Important changes in Penal Code
As for the Penal Code number 3 of 1987, the Presidential Decrees included some major changes. Most prominent among the changes is the abolition of an article in the law that reduced the punishment for the so-called ‘honour crime’. According to the new amendments, such crime will be treated as murder and the relevant legal articles in the Penal Code.
This is an important legal transformation that underlines the UAE’s commitment to protect the rights of women and ensuring the supremacy of the law.
Other changes in the law stipulate that those who consume or deal in liquor in the authorised places and according to the authorise conditions as per the prevailing laws, would not be liable, while giving each emirate the authority to issue the regulatory rules in this matter.
The punishment will be restricted to consuming liquor or serving it or selling it to a person younger than 21 years of age and to those who bought liquor on behalf of a person under 21 years of age.
In the decency laws, the new changes stipulate that the punishment for those who committed indecent act in public will be a financial fine instead of prison for the first offense.
The new changes also restricted the punishment in the sexual offenses under duress, threat, or force. Consensual sex will not be punished by the law as per the new changes. However, consensual sex will be punished by the law if the victim, male or female, is under 14 years of age of if the victim is deprived of their will due to their young age, insanity or mentally challenged or if the culprit is a first degree relative of the victim or responsible for their upbringing or usual care or has an authority of the minor victim.
A person convicted of committing sexual intercourse with a minor or mentally challenged person by force would be punished by the death penalty.
Another change in the law says that a person will not be liable if committed a harmful act to another person in good intention with the aim of assisting or rescuing that person who needed urgent help.
According to the new changes, the court is given the discretion to send a person convicted of attempting suicide to a treatment institution instead of punishing them. However, a person assisting in any mean another person to commit suicide will be punished by jail term.
Emphasis on victim’s privacy
In the Penal Procedural Law number 35 of 1992, a new change has been introduced in the Presidential Decrees obliges authorised judicial arresting officers to have an interpreter present if a suspect or a witness don’t know the Arabic language.
Another change stipulates that the authorized judicial arresting officers shall not reveal the personal information of a victim except to those concerned in cases that are:
1- of a sexual nature such as rape, abuse, indecency, prostitution;
2- the case involves a minor’s physical, psychological, mental, moral safety or the minor was exploited in begging, sexual crimes, pornography or labour under inappropriate or threatening conditions.