Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 - United Arab Emirates

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 April 2014
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 - United Arab Emirates, 30 April 2014, available at: [accessed 3 April 2020]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Overview: The Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) continued to build its counterterrorism capacity and strengthened its international counterterrorism cooperation. Over the course of the year, the UAE government improved its border security measures and renewed its efforts to counter terrorist financing. The UAE and U.S. governments signed an agreement to establish a pre-clearance facility for travelers boarding direct flights to the United States at the Abu Dhabi International Airport. Prominent officials and religious leaders continued to publicly criticize violent extremist ideology.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The UAE government continued to make use of Federal Law No. 1 of 2004 on combating terrorism offenses which outlined terrorism-related offenses and corresponding punishments. The State Security Directorate in Abu Dhabi and the Dubai State Security share principal responsibility for counterterrorism functions. Specialized law enforcement units exist that have advanced investigations, crisis response, and border security capacity. These specialized units are properly equipped and supported with relevant training.

The UAE participated in the Megaports and Container Security Initiatives (CSI). The CSI, which became operational at Port Rashid and Jebel Ali Port in the emirate of Dubai in 2005, co-locates two U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers with the Dubai Customs Intelligence Unit at Port Rashid. On average, CSI reviewed approximately 250 bills of lading each week, resulting in about 25 non-intrusive inspections per month of U.S.-bound containers. Examinations were conducted jointly with Dubai Customs officers, who shared information on transshipments from high risk areas, including those originating in Iran.

In 2012, the UAE initiated the use of retina scanning devices at international airport arrival terminals. The process for determining who is subjected to the scans was unclear.

In 2010, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) signed two Memoranda of Cooperation (MOCs) to support the respective training academies of the UAE Ministry of Interior's (federal) Immigration Authority and the Abu Dhabi (emirate-level) Customs Authority (ADCA) and to enhance capacity building of its police and customs authorities. The aforementioned MOCs remain in effect.

A critical challenge to the effectiveness of the UAE's law enforcement, border security, and judicial systems is the country's shortage of human capacity. These sectors are generally reserved for Emirati citizens, who compose only 11 percent of the country's total population, making it structurally difficult to develop the country's human resources to counter the full range of terrorist activities. Despite this, the UAE government remained vigilant in its overall counterterrorism pursuits.

U.S. training initiatives included post-blast investigation and evidence response team training, which were designed to provide the UAE with the ability to develop instructors who would then train UAE police departments.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The UAE is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and chairs the Task Force's Training and Typologies Working Group. The UAE Central Bank's (CBUAE) financial intelligence unit (FIU), the Anti-Money Laundering and Suspicious Cases Unit (AMLSCU), is a member of the Egmont Group. The UAE continued efforts to strengthen its institutional capabilities to combat terrorist financing, but challenges remained with its enforcement of local and international law. The UAE's last mutual evaluation report, in 2008, included a recommendation to amend the federal anti-money laundering (AML) law and increase dedicated resources available to the AMLSCU. The amended law has been in draft since 2010 and was reportedly in the final stages of drafting at year's end. The amended Law conforms to the FATF Recommendations according to the AMLSCU. This law had not been passed by the end of 2013.

The Central Bank conducted AML training both locally and regionally, and expanded its cooperation with foreign FIUs. Exploitation by illicit actors of money transmitters including licensed exchange houses, hawalas; and trading firms acting as money transmitters, remained significant concerns. With an expatriate population comprising around 90 percent of the country's residents, a significant amount of money flows out of the country in remittances. Since formal financial services are limited in large parts of many guest workers' home countries, hawaladars are prevalent in the UAE. There were some indications that trade-based money laundering occurs in the UAE, including through the use of commodities as a means of reconciling accounts in hawala transactions or through trading companies, and that such activity might support sanctions evasion networks and terrorist groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia.

The CBUAE promulgated new regulations in 2013 that made hawala registration mandatory instead of voluntary. This represents a significant step towards improved oversight of informal value transfers systems although concerns remain about CBUAE's capacity to supervise the vast number of hawalas in the country. The United States and the UAE continued to work together to strengthen efforts to counter terrorist finance, including: training on cross-border Bulk Cash Smuggling and money laundering, which remain of significant concern; collaborative engagement with the local financial communities; and other bilateral government cooperation.

In 2012, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Legal Attaché established a sub-office at the U.S. Consulate in Dubai to assist with Counterterrorist Financing matters and to provide a viable means to enhance cooperation between the FBI and UAE.

While it issued updated guidance in 2013 regarding the compliance obligations of UAE banks under UN-based sanctions programs, CBUAE does not routinely distribute UN lists of designated terrorists or terrorist entities to financial institutions. Terrorist organizations have used the UAE to send and receive financial support. Operational capability constraints and political considerations sometimes prevented the UAE government from immediately freezing and confiscating terrorist assets absent multilateral assistance. The UAE's communication with the local financial community is largely driven by follow-up on suspicious transactions reports and close bilateral cooperation with partner governments.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Regional and International Cooperation: The UAE is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), and chaired the Working Group on Countering Violent Extremism with the UK. The International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism, known as Hedayah, was formally launched in Abu Dhabi on December 13-14, 2012, at the GCTF's Third Coordinating Committee and Ministerial meetings. The UAE is Hedayah's permanent host, and in November 2013, the UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan issued federal Law No. (7) of 2013 which officially established Hedayah.

The UAE government routinely invited participation from GCC countries at counterterrorism-related training sessions conducted by the FBI in the UAE.

Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: To prevent violent extremist preaching in UAE mosques, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments provided guidelines for all Friday sermons and monitored compliance. Abroad, the General Authority has trained cohorts of Afghan imams on preaching messages of non-violence and tolerance, a program they have conducted since 2010. During key periods of Muslim religious observance, especially the fasting month of Ramadan, the UAE government aired commercials on television warning its Muslim citizens and residents to refrain from donating money at mosques, as the funds could unknowingly go to support terrorist causes. The UAE worked to keep its education system free of violent extremist influences, and it emphasized social tolerance. Also, the UAE has a cybercrime law criminalizing the use of the internet by terrorist groups to "promote their ideologies and finance their activities." The UAE government repeatedly condemned terrorist acts in Libya, Syria, and elsewhere.

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