The UAE anti-human trafficking law – Federal Law 51 of November 2006 is the first of its kind in the region. The law takes into account the existing federal laws on entry and residency of foreigners, labor, camel races and criminal procedures, as well as the penal code. It calls for strong punitive measures, including maximum penalties of life imprisonment and covers all forms of human trafficking – not just overt enslavement but also sexual exploitation, child labor, and commerce in human organs. A life sentence is also imposed if the crime is committed through deceit, if it involves the use of force or threat of murder or bodily harm, or if it involves physical or psychological torture.
The 16-article law spells stiff penalties against traffickers ranging from one year to life in prison and fines of 100,000 dirhams and one million dirhams (US$ 27,500 and US$ 275,000).
Other salient features of Federal Law 51 include:
- Article One of the law defines human trafficking as an act of exploitation and coercion
- Exploitation is defined to include exploitation for sex, engaging others in prostitution, servitude, forced labor, enslavement, quasi-slavery practices, or detachment of organs
- An organized criminal gang is defined as a group of three or more people who collaborate to carry out a premeditated act with the intent of committing a human trafficking crime for the sake of gaining directly or indirectly financial or any other material benefit
- A crime is adjudged to be transnational if it is:
- Committed in more than one country
- Committed in one country but preparation, planning, direction and supervision were carried out from another country
- Committed in one country but the perpetrators were an organized criminal gang involved in criminal activities in several countries
- Committed in one country but its repercussions impact another country.
- Article Two sets an imprisonment term of at least five years for whoever commits a human trafficking crime
- The penalty will be life imprisonment if:
- The perpetrator has created, organized, run, assumed a leading role in, or solicited others to join, an organized criminal gang
- The victim is a female, child (under 18 years), or handicapped
- The crime is committed through deceit, involved the use of force or threat of murder or bodily harm, or involved physical or psychological torture
- The crime is committed by two or more people, or by an armed person
- The perpetrator is a member of an organized criminal gang, or has consciously taken part in the activities of that gang
- The perpetrator is the spouse, a relative, descendent, or guardian of the victim
- The perpetrator is a public servant or commissioned with a public task
- The crime is transnational.
- Article Three spells out a penalty of one to five years in prison and/or a fine of 5,000 dirhams to 20,000 dirhams (US$ 1,400 to US$ 5,500) for anyone who was aware of a plan to commit a human trafficking crime, but failed to inform the concerned authorities
- The law stipulates various imprisonment and fines for a host of acts, including the use or threatened use of force or offering or promising a gift or advantage to prompt others to give a false testimony or withhold information, and possessing, harboring or dispensing articles gained through a human-trafficking crime
- Corporate entities will be liable to a fine ranging between 100,000 dirhams and one million dirhams (US$ 27,500 and US$ 275,000) if their representatives, managers, or agents committed a human trafficking crime.
- According to Article 12, the Council of Ministers shall set up a National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking.
In addition to Federal Law 51, the UAE also issued Law No. 39 in 2006 on international judicial cooperation, which includes articles on the extradition of suspected or convicted criminals to judicial authorities to try them or execute the sentences given to them. It also provides for mutual judicial assistance in criminal cases, including human trafficking (Articles 6-37). Such cooperation was recorded in at least seven cases during 2007.
Furthermore, the UAE’s commitments under international law include being a signatory of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women [CEDAW (1979)], the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (1963).
UAE National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking
A Cabinet order established the UAE National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking in April 2007 to give teeth to Federal Law 51 and to create a coordinating body for anti-human trafficking efforts at all levels in the seven emirates of the federation. The Committee has held eight meetings since its formation in addition to frequent activities, visits and organized events and workshops. It is headed by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Federal National Council Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash. Its members include representatives from the federal ministries of interior, foreign affairs, labor, health and social affairs, as well as from the State Security Authority and the UAE Red Crescent Society. The responsibilities of the Committee include:
- Developing the framework by which the new anti-human trafficking law will be implemented. The Committee regularly assesses government implementation procedures and assists in the coordination of government ministries and departments concerned with eliminating human trafficking crimes. This coordinating role is important in a federal system and reflects an increased emphasis throughout the UAE on collaborative efforts by local and federal government authorities to monitor and track incidents of human trafficking
- Studying and revising human trafficking legislation with the aim of bringing the UAE efforts in line with international standards and improving national legislation with the experience of realties on the ground. The committee has been authorized to prepare reports on efforts taken by the UAE to fight human trafficking and to make recommendations to the Cabinet
- Creating resources to increase public awareness of human trafficking issues
- Develop victim sensitivity training for the relevant bodies and individuals dealing with victims of trafficking
- Represent the UAE officially in handling international requests, enquiries, and delegations related to human trafficking issues
It is expected that the Committee’s activities will encourage additionally progressive and aggressive legislative efforts to assure country-wide conformance with international standards and implementation of the laws that are in place