The UAE is well known for its very strict policies in relation to the use and trafficking of narcotics. The Emirati legislator considers drug control of extreme importance and has thus enacted various federal and local laws and concluded international agreements to combat drugs and drug trafficking.
In this article, we will review the most prominent drug crime laws in the UAE and their penalties.
The Federal Decree-Law No. 14 of 1995 on the Control of Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances (the Drug Law) was enacted in 1995. In 2016 certain provisions of the Drug Law were amended by virtue of Federal Decree Law No. 8 of 2016.
One of the Articles amended by Federal Decree Law No. 8 was Article 6, which was amended to read as follows:
- The introduction, import, export, manufacture, extraction, separation, production, obtainment, acquisition and use of narcotics and psychotropic substances set forth in schedules no. 1, 2, 4 and 5, as well as other activities and behaviors related thereto shall be prohibited.
- Supervised medical uses, as well as scientific researches on said substances may be carried out, with the knowledge of a specialized scientific party as determined by virtue of a cabinet decision upon the proposal of the Minister of Health and Prevention.
Thus, Article 6 confirms that the import, export, manufacture, production, possession, procurement or abuse of a narcotic drug as referred to in the Drug Law is strictly prohibited.
However, as set out in Article 8 of the Drug Law, there are exceptions where a person is permitted to have possession of certain drugs, depending on the weight which may not exceed the prescribed limit as set forth in accepted pharmacopeias.
The Import, Export and Transport of Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances
In accordance with Article 10 of the Drug Law, the import or export of narcotics and psychotropic substances shall be prohibited unless by virtue of a written permit from the competent authority.
Article 11 of the Drug Law confirms that the following parties may grant a permit of authorization:
- Governmental parties and accredited institutions.
- Governmental or licensed hospitals, dispensaries and sanatoriums.
- Licensed chemical analyses or medical, scientific and industrial laboratories.
- Licensed pharmaceutical warehouses, pharmacies, medical pharmaceuticals factories, provided that they employ a responsible pharmacist licensed to practice the profession.
- Offices of intermediaries and agents of medicinal and pharmaceutical factories and companies licensed to practice the profession, provided that they employ a responsible, licensed pharmacist.
Article 12 of the Drug Law provides further that the aforementioned permit may not be granted to the following persons unless rehabilitated:
- Persons convicted and sentenced for a crime of breach of trust;
- Persons convicted of one of the crimes set forth in the Drug Law.
- Persons convicted with a crime involving money, dignity, corruption of morals or a property related matter, as well as the suspicion of commitment or attempt to commit any of said crimes.
It is worthy to mention that, in accordance with Article 13 of the Drug Law, narcotics or psychotropic substances arriving at UAE Customs may not be released without the necessary permit signed by the director responsible for the party licensed to import the shipment.
As stated in Article 6 above, the sale, possession or manufacturing of illicit narcotics is prohibited and as such, the penalties related thereto are severe.
The penalties prescribed are generally based on the type of offence, however, the minimum sentence for such offence is 4 (four) years along with a fine not less than AED 10,000 and deportation in some cases.
Article 58 of the Drug Law provides that a person convicted more than once for a crime provided for in the Drug Law may be sentenced by the court, in addition to the prescribed sentence, to one of the following measures:
- The restriction of domicile to a particular place.
- The prohibition of residence to a particular place.
- The commitment to reside in his home country.
- The prohibition from frequenting specific locations or places.
- The deprivation of the right to practice a certain profession or craft.
The duration of the sentenced measure may not be less than 1 year or more than 5 years. Should the perpetrator breach the sentenced measure, he shall be sentenced to a period of imprisonment for a period of not less than 3 months and not more than 1 year.
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Drug Addiction Treatment
Pursuant to Article 42 of the Drug Law, the court may, except in the case of recidivism, instead of imposing penalties on the perpetrator, order any of the following:
- To confine the perpetrator to an addiction treatment unit;
- To confine the perpetrator to a rehabilitation center;
- To impose on the perpetrator a fine not exceeding AED 10,000;
- To impose a measure of community service on the perpetrator.
Furthermore, Article 43 of the Drug Law provides:
- No criminal proceedings shall be instituted against any abuser of narcotics or psychotropic substances who voluntarily presents himself or is presented by his/her spouse or a relative to an addiction treatment unit, the Public Prosecution or the police requesting treatment. The abuser shall remain in the unit until it takes the decision to release him.
- In cases where the abuser is not confined to a treatment unit by the Public Prosecution, the confining entity must obtain the Public Prosecution’s approval upon the confinement of the abuser. Release, non-commitment to the plan of treatment or failure to hand over narcotic substances in his possession may make the abuser liable for the institution of the criminal proceedings.
- The provision of clause (1) of this Article shall not apply to the abuser who the treatment unit deems did not commit to the prescribed treatment plan.
- The period of treatment and rehabilitation shall not exceed two years.
- The provision of this Article shall not apply to the abuser who possessed a narcotic and did not hand it over to the unit, the Public Prosecution or the Police upon his presentation for treatment.
Special Cases of Exemption
Article 55 of the Drug Law stipulates that any perpetrator, who notifies the judicial or administrative authorities of any information with regards to a crime and such prior to the perpetration thereof shall be exempt from penalties for certain crimes as more specifically set out in Articles 46, 48, 49 and 50 of the Drug Law.
In such cases the court may exempt the perpetrator from punishment, or reduce the punishment, should the notification occur after the perpetration of the crime and prior to the beginning of the investigation into the crime. Furthermore, the court may remit the sanction should the perpetrator facilitate the capture of any of the perpetrators of the crime during the investigation or trial.
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