Death sentence for expat who had criminal record at home sparks debate among lawyers

Killer's death sentence reignites debates on expats with criminal records

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DUBAI // Senior judges, prosecutors and lawyers are pushing for a mandatory certificate of good conduct to prove that those wishing to move to the UAE have no criminal record.

The push follows a death sentence recently handed to a Jordanian man, 48, who was found guilty of kidnapping, raping and killing eight-year-old Obaida Al Aqrabawi in May this year.

The Dubai Criminal Court was told the convicted killer had a long criminal record in Jordan, leading lawyers to ask for a ban on people with criminal pasts to be added to residency laws.

“I am a supporter of such a move,” said Dr Ali Al Galadari, a judge at the Dubai Court of Appeals. “It’s similar to the medical tests mandatory for those moving to the UAE to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.

“In our country, we are aiming for excellence in everything and we are succeeding, but such a move will help us get to where we want safer and faster.”

Before a UAE residence visa is granted, prospective residents must have medical tests at government health centres to prove that they do not have HIV-Aids, Hepatitis B or C, or tuberculosis.

Good conduct certificates, or criminal background checks, are required for residency visas in countries including Australia and Canada.

The plan was backed by Mohammed Rustom, head of prosecution for family and juvenile matters in Dubai.

“It’s not acceptable nor logical that our country becomes the home of individuals who work or reside here without knowing their background and conduct in their home countries,” Mr Rustom said. “It is a right that applies to all nations.”

Prosecutor Ahmad Al Attar believed the conduct certificate would be welcomed.

“We at public prosecution, as a legal entity, would encourage such a suggestion so that our country remains an attraction to investments from around the world,” Mr Al Attar said.

“It is each country’s right to protect itself and its people from offenders with criminal records.

“By conditioning good conduct certificates, the community will be safer for everyone. Why should we wait until another horrible crime is committed?”

Lawyer Huda Al Falamarzy said the plan would need cooperation between immigration and residency authorities, and public and private-sector employers.

“Public institutions demand a good conduct certificate, but from inside the UAE it has to be requested from the applicant’s home country as well, stamped and authenticated through the proper channels and by the embassy of the UAE in that country,” said Ms Al Falamarzy.

Mohammed Al Hashimi, owner of a Dubai law firm, supported the idea but stressed it was no guarantee against such crimes.

“I won’t say that if it was a practice Obaida might still be alive, because at the end it’s God’s will,” Mr Al Hashimi said.

“But if it is adopted now we will rest assured that we won’t hear of another Obaida being killed by a criminal record holder.”