UAE introduces changes to criminal, civil codes and inheritance law

In line with the UAE’s ongoing attempts to develop legislative foundations, President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has issued a number of presidential decrees amending articles in the Personal Status Law, the Federal Penal Code, and the Federal Penal Procedural Law.

The decrees have been issued to enhance the legislative foundations in line with the country’s commitment to and belief in tolerance principles, in accordance with the UAE’s cultural identity. They have also been issued to boost its status and capability as one of the world’s most attractive destinations socially and economically for foreign expertise and investment.

Inheritance law
The new amendments in the Personal Status Code and the Civil Law gives expatriates living in the UAE the option to choose the law applied to their inheritance, in order to ensure the stability of the financial interests 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 apply.

New changes the Personal Status Code stipulate that, the laws of the country in which the marriage took place will apply 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 will also apply 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, allow one partner in a venture to sell the entire venture. This is following a request to a judge in the case that 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
The Presidential Decrees included some major changes in Penal Code number 3 of 1987. 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 authorized places and according to the authorized 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 for those who committed indecent act in public, the punishment will be a financial fine instead of prison for the first offense.

Consensual sex
The new changes also restrict 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, if the victim is deprived of their will due to their young age, insanity or mentally challenged. It will also be punished if the culprit is a first degree relative of the victim or responsible for their upbringing and 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 will be punished by death penalty.

Another change in the law states that a person will not be liable for committing a harmful act to another person in good intention, with the aim of assisting or rescuing that person who is in need of urgent help.

According to the new changes, the court has given the discretion to send a person convicted of attempting suicide to a treatment institution instead of punishing them. However, a person assisting another person to commit suicide by any means, will be punished by jail term.

Emphasis on victim’s privacy
An modification has been introduced, for the Penal Procedural Law 35 of 1992. The Presidential Decree compels authorized judicial arresting officers to have an interpreter present, if a suspect or a witness does not speak or understand the Arabic language.

Other changes include, 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.


  • Death penalty for sex with minor
  • Honour crime to be treated as murder
  • Expats’ inheritance to be applied as per nationality
  • Marriage laws to be applied as per the country where it took place
  • Only financial fines for public indecency
  • Cases of attempt to suicide to be sent for treatment


Source: Gulf News

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