UAE set to introduce witness protection programme

A draft law has been discussed by a Federal National Council committee

Witness intimidation is thought to be extremely rare but FNC members said a protection system should be in place if needed. Amy Leang / The National
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Plans to establish the UAE's first witness protection programme topped the agenda of a remote Federal National Council meeting.

The draft law, if approved, would represent a landmark step for the country's judicial system.

Witness protection schemes - which provide security to people who may come under threat for giving evidence in court cases - are in countries around the world, including in the US and the UK.

The proposed legislation aims to encourage residents to speak out about serious crimes.

The witness protection draft law is being studied by members of the Federal National Council.

It will then be discussed in an open session at the council with relevant authorities.

“There were general laws before such as the law of police and security and penal code and such that were related [to witness protection], but this [comprehensive] law is new,” said Nasser Al Yamahi, representing the FNC committee which studied the draft law recently.

“There is no previous witness protection programme [in the UAE]. The regulations of the programme and who is enrolled in it will be specified once the law is issued and the concerned authority issues its list of amendment.”

Penalties for people who breach the programme and leak confidential information could include fines of up to Dh100,000 or six months in jail.

“The judicial authority [handling a case] decides who is enrolled in the protection programme,” said Mr Al Yamahi.

Federal draft laws must first pass through the FNC for recommendations when members can amend the laws to suit the needs of citizens. The draft laws are then forwarded to the Cabinet for consideration and approval.

No date has been set yet for when the draft law will be discussed at the council.