United Arab Emirates

Head of state: Al-Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan
Head of government: Al-Sheikh Maktum bin Rashid al-Maktum
Capital: Abu Dhabi
Population: 2.6 million
Official language: Arabic
Death penalty: retentionist

During 1999, at least eight people were sentenced to death and two people were executed. At least five death sentences passed in previous years were commuted. The number of crimes punishable by death was also increased.


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras al-Khaimah, Umm al-Qaiwain, 'Ajman and Fujairah. There have been no elections and no political parties have been authorized. The main policy-making body is the Supreme Council of Rulers, composed of the rulers of the seven Emirates, who appoint the members of a Federal National Council, which is responsible for reviewing and amending legislation.


Muhammad Arshad, a Pakistan national, was executed in 'Ajman in June for the murder of a young woman in 1993. Gamini Perera, a Sri Lankan national, was executed in Dubai in November for the murder of an 18-year-old youth. He had been sentenced to death by a Dubai court in 1998. The sentence was upheld by the Court of Appeal in February, and by the Supreme Court in October.

Death sentences

At least eight people were sentenced to death during 1999. Seven were foreign nationals. Six of the eight were reportedly sentenced to death on drug-related charges.

Commutation of death sentences

The death sentences on Rabi' Ghassan Taraf, a Lebanese national, and Ryan Dominic Mahoney, a Canadian national, both of whom were charged with drug-related offences, were commuted to life imprisonment during 1999, after a retrial. Ryan Dominic Mahoney was reportedly released on 31 October.

The death sentences on two Russian nationals charged with murder – Anton Samoilenkov and Ruslan Gerbekov – were commuted in June by an appeal court in 'Ajman to 10 years' imprisonment and an order to pay approximately $US 20,000 "blood money" (compensation) to the victim's relatives. The third Russian national involved in the case, Ivan Tziberkine, had his death sentence quashed.

In September, the death sentence on Malullah Bakkar Fayruz, an Omani national convicted of a drug-related offence, was commuted to life imprisonment by the Court of Appeal. In November, the death sentence on a national of the UAE convicted of rape was commuted to 10 years' imprisonment, 200 lashes and a fine, by the Court of Appeal in Ras al-Khaimah. By the end of 1999, it was not known whether the flogging sentence had been carried out.

In January it was reported that John Aquino, a Philippine national sentenced to death in 1990 for murder, might have had his sentence commuted after the family of the victim reportedly submitted affidavits to the Supreme Court granting him clemency. The Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi had previously allowed John Aquino's lawyers time to seek clemency from the victim's family.

Changes in law

In October a new Federal Environment Law was issued by the President. Article 62(2) of this law states that anyone found storing or dumping nuclear waste and polluting the environment would be subject to either the death penalty or life imprisonment, and a large fine.

Cruel judicial punishments

Sentences of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments such as flogging were reportedly passed during 1999. In October a Shari'a court in Fujairah reportedly sentenced a number of foreign nationals to flogging for sexual offences. They included a Sri Lankan woman and an Indian man who were sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment and 100 lashes each, to be followed by deportation. The court reportedly also sentenced two Bangladesh nationals to one year's imprisonment and 100 lashes, again to be followed by deportation. An Indian national was also reportedly sentenced to flogging for sexual offences and for using a house as a brothel.

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