Convicted drug offenders who were deported from the UAE can now appeal to return to live in the Emirates following a recent change in the law.
According to the UAE’s revised drug law, which came into effect in January, deportation is no longer a mandatory consequence of being convicted.
The new law also provides a degree of leniency for first-time offenders, largely drug users, and makes rehabilitation a priority. The penalty for traffickers and dealers remains stringent.
Historically, anyone found guilty of using or possessing an illegal substance would have deportation included as the final step of their sentence.
Instead, judges have been given the authority to decide whether the defendant is allowed to stay in the country after being convicted. If a judge deems deportation to be an appropriate punishment, the offender can now appeal the decision.
Furthermore, anyone already deported owing to a conviction for drug offences is now able to submit a request to be allowed to return.
Since January, several people have appealed against deportation orders received as a result of a drug conviction and won.
“When the new law made it possible for drug-use convicts to challenge their deportations, it didn’t differentiate between those who are still inside the country or those who have already left,” said Dr Hassan Elhais, from Al Rowaad Advocates.
“Therefore, there is no reason why people who have been convicted prior to the introduction of the new law can’t appeal the deportation orders against them.”
Mr Elhais said that because new laws do not state that the offender has to still be in the UAE, anyone already deported can lodge an appeal.
Another route is to appeal based on Article 13 of the penal code.
“Article 13 of the penal code urges the court to use the law that is more beneficial for the defendant,” said Mr Elhais.
“But because this is for people who have already been deported and are now outside the country, they would need a family member or a lawyer who are in the UAE to file the petition on their behalf.”
How to appeal a deportation order
The first step would be hiring a UAE-based defence lawyer who would submit a request to the judiciary.
It would cite the original case, the circumstances surrounding the conviction and the argument to be made for allowing the person's return to live in the Emirates.
Once a petition has been filed, the case would be heard by a judge and the verdict is issued in the favour of the petitioner, the deportation order would be lifted.
“Judges considering such petitions will look at the human side of things, whether the person filing the petition has a family here or if they were residents or just visitors at the time,” said Ali Galadari, senior judge at the Dubai Court of Cassation.
Dr Galadari considers deportation to be a very harsh punishment.
“I have always called for giving judges the authority to decide on deportation in all crimes, not just drugs,” he said.
“The legislators authorised judges to decide on the death penalty, therefore why not on the deportation order?”
After the new drug law was announced, The National received queries from readers sharing their stories and asking whether they or loved ones who had been deported over drug use might be able to return to the UAE.
A young Indian woman, who wished to remain unnamed, said she had been trying to lift the deportation order against her partner.
“Four years ago, my fiancé, a first-time offender for first-time consumption, was fined Dh5,000 then deported. He was a student at the time and so was I,” she said.
“It was very hard on all of us, and as we are looking to get married we really want this ban he had to come off. Now both our families see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
She said they have hired a lawyer who submitted a petition on the behalf of her fiancé.
The ruling is expected within a few weeks.