Internal Security Problems
In the past, internal dynastic rivalries within individual amirates
were often sources of tension and even bloodshed. In part, this
resulted from the absence of clearly established rules of succession.
More recently, however, heirs apparent have usually been designated,
most often the eldest son of the amir. Intra-UAE rivalries no
longer take a violent form, but the continued existence of independent
military forces and competition in acquiring arms bring with them
a costly proliferation of weapons that complicates training and
The threat of subversion from resident Iranians and native Shia
seems to be less acute in the UAE than in other gulf states in
spite of the large Shia population in Dubayy. Dubayy and Sharjah
have traditionally maintained good relations with Iran and enjoyed
profits from maritime trade, particularly the transshipment of
items officially banned in Iran to conserve foreign exchange.
The UAE is not a target of Iranian terrorist attacks.
The provisional constitution authorizes federal police and security
guard forces, which are subordinate to the Ministry of Interior.
The strength of the police force has not been reported but is
estimated as relatively large and vigilant in exercising control
over political activities. Individual shaykhs had their own police
forces before independence and maintained those forces after unification.
Both the federal government and the amirate of Dubayy retain independent
internal security organizations. The police forces of the other
amirates are also involved in antinarcotic and antiterrorist activities.
Criminal cases are tried either by sharia courts administered
by each amirate or by civil courts of the federal system that
exist in several amirates. Rights of due process are accorded
under both systems. Defendants are entitled to legal counsel.
No formal public defender system exists, but the judge has responsibility
for looking after the interests of persons not represented by
counsel. Under the Criminal Procedures Code adopted in 1992, the
accused has the right to defense counsel, provided by the government,
if necessary, in cases involving possible sentence of death or
life imprisonment. There are no jury trials, but trials are open
except in cases involving national security or morals offenses.
No separate security courts exist, and military courts try only
military personnel in a system based on Western military judicial
principles. According to Department of State human rights reports,
the criminal court system is generally regarded as fair. Despite
the lack of a formal bail system, there are instances of release
on deposit of money or passport.
Detentions must be reported to the attorney general within forty-eight
hours; the attorney general must decide within twenty-four hours
whether to charge, release, or allow further limited detention.
Most persons receive expeditious trials, although Iraqis and Palestinians
had been held incommunicado in detention for one or two months
in 1991. Others were being held in jail because they were unwilling
or unable to return to their countries of origin.
Data as of January 1993