Federal Supreme Court rules on difference between presidential pardons and those issued at Ramadan

The court has clarified the difference between specific pardons – issued during religious festivals, such as Ramadan – and comprehensive pardons, issued by the President.

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ABU DHABI // The Federal Supreme court has ruled that not all pardons mean that a conviction is erased.

Following a case in Sharjah, the court has clarified the difference between specific pardons – issued during religious occasions, such as Ramadan – and comprehensive pardons, issued by the President, Sheikh Khalifa.

Specific pardons mean a person does not have to serve out remaining jail time, while comprehensive Presidential pardons erase the entire conviction and criminal record entirely, it ruled.

The case centred on a man who was charged in 2008 with consuming and possessing drugs with the intent to supply. He was cleared by the Criminal Court of several charges but sentenced to four years for consuming drugs.

The man appealed on the basis that he had received a pardon during Ramadan in 2009.

The Sharjah Appeals Court ruled that the case was over because the man had received this type of pardon.

However, Public Prosecution took the case to the Federal Supreme Court on the grounds that this ruling did not follow the law.

It argued that according to the penal code, the case was only over once the defendant was dead, a final verdict was issued or in the event of a comprehensive pardoning by Sheikh Khalifa.

In the Sharjah case, the pardon that the defendant received was specific. It only exempted him from serving the remaining sentence and did not mean the case was erased.

Therefore, the Supreme Court ruled that the Sharjah court mistakenly found the case to be over.

Judge Haytham Al Arabi, from the technical office at the Federal Supreme Court, explained that the court had wrongly considered the Ramadan pardoning as comprehensive. “Comprehensive is only issued by the President as he is the Ruler of the Union,” said Judge Al Arabi.

Comprehensive pardoning is issued by a Presidential decree, pardoning a certain person for a certain act and erases the offence and penalty from the person’s criminal record, as if it never occurred.

Lawyer Mohammed Al Khazraji said these presidential pardons were completely separate from the general types of pardons that were issued during religious or national occasions, such as Ramadan, the two Eids and National Day.

These are issued by the Ruler of each emirate to exempt those who received jail time from what remains of their sentence.

However, when someone receives this specific pardoning, the offence and verdict remain on their criminal records.

“They are only pardoned from what remains of their sentence,” said Mr Al Khazraji. “So pardoning cannot be issued to a person who was sentenced to death.”

However, if a murderer was pardoned by the victim’s heirs and was sentenced to time in prison instead, they can be included in this type of specific pardoning.

In general, when these specific pardons are issued, the Interior Ministry examined the records of inmates to decide.

“It is not like one gets jailed for a few days and then Ramadan arrives so he gets pardoned.”

Another lawyer, Hamed Al Minhali, said many of the cases he handled received specific pardoning, such as cases of drugs and bounced cheques – regardless of whether the defendants were Emiratis or expatriates.

“Big cases, such as political ones, are not included in Ramadan and occasion-related pardons.”

The Rulers sometimes pardon those involved in financial lawsuits by paying off debts.

“As for comprehensive pardons, we cannot limit the types of cases the President pardons – only he has the ultimate authority to issue it,” added Mr Al Minhali.