Dr. Abdul Wahab Abdool, Chief Judge of Federal Supreme Court, during an interview at the Supreme Court, Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf news archives

Abu Dhabi: A change has been introduced to a law to give a fair trial affording all essential judicial guarantees to defendants currently facing final verdicts by the Federal Supreme Court without a right to appeal, a former chief justice has said.

“The Federal Supreme Court’s powers to decide on crimes relating to the UAE’s internal and external security, forgery of official records and counterfeiting of currency are to be mandated to a Federal Court of Appeals,” Dr Abdul Wahab Abdool, former Chief Justice of the Federal Supreme Court told Gulf News.

The law was issued by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in September and will come into effect next month, two months after its publishing in the official gazette.

Once the law takes effect in December, rulings issued by this Federal Appeals Court can be appealed before the Federal Supreme Court.

At present, verdicts of the Federal Supreme Court are final and may not be appealed.

Dr Abdool said the Federal Supreme Court, the highest federal judicial authority, will continue to look into various disputes among members of the UAE Union, or between one or more emirates and the federal government, the constitutionality of federal and other laws and legislations, conflicts of jurisdiction between the federal and local judicial authorities in the country, conflict of jurisdiction between the judicial authority in one emirate and another and interpreting the provisions of the constitution.

Dr Abdool said changes in the judicial system law was meant to secure and promote fair trial for defendants who are currently facing final verdicts without the right to appeal them.

He explained the Federal Supreme Court will now decide on any verdicts issued by the Federal Court of Appeals on crimes relating to the UAE’s internal and external security, forgery of official records and counterfeiting of currency. “It can uphold these verdicts or turn them down and issues new rulings,” Dr Abdool said.

“The move, however, requires a change be introduced to the UAE constitution, which still mandates the Federal Supreme Court to look into these crimes and issue final verdicts on them,” said Dr Abdool, also a professor of constitutional law.

Dr Abdool explained that the constitution prevails over any other law enforced in the country. “So unless the constitution is amended and the Federal Supreme Court’s mandate is changed accordingly, the new law may be challenged as unconstitutional.

“This can be fixed by a case filed the public prosecutor before the Federal Supreme Court to decide on whether the law is constitutional. The Federal Appeals Court can also refuse to look into any crime referred to it under the new law for potentially violating the constitution,” Dr Abdool said.

The federal judiciary in the UAE took shape in 1973 with the establishment of the Federal Supreme Court. The federal judiciary comprises the Federal Supreme Court, Federal First Instance Courts and Federal Appeals Courts.

The judicial system in the UAE functions in a two-fold legal framework, which includes the local judiciary and the federal judiciary. The relationship between the two systems is regulated by articles 94 to 109 of the UAE constitution, which describe the broad principles of both systems, while leaving the details to the discretion of local judiciaries without violating or contradicting the broad principles laid down by the constitution.

All emirates have courts of first instance and courts of appeals, either federal or local, in addition to the Sharia courts, which mainly deal with matters of personal status, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance, among others. The primary source of legislation is Sharia (Islamic law).

According to the UAE constitution, people are equal before the law regardless of race, nationality, religion or social status. The constitution protects human rights and prohibits torture and various forms of inhuman and degrading treatment. It also prevents arbitrary arrest, search, detention, imprisonment, and entering homes without the permission of the owners.