UAE introduces law to hold ministers and senior officials to account

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid says Attorney General now has power to issue travel bans and freeze officials' assets while investigations take place

The UAE has introduced new legislation for investigations and complaints against government ministers and senior officials.

The measures allow the Attorney General to impose travel bans and freeze bank accounts if a person is suspected of wrongdoing.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, provided details of the move on Tuesday. He said President Sheikh Khalifa had approved the new law.

"Today my brother, President Sheikh Khalifa, approved a decree law on questioning ministers and senior officials of the UAE," he said.

"The Public Prosecution will be the authority in charge. It will receive complaints and reports against any of the senior officials and will refer them for investigation in co-ordination with the Cabinet.

"The Attorney General can ban travel for any official and freeze their accounts if needed and [the official] can be can removed from their job as a result of any administrative or financial offences.

"Our nation is a nation of law and preserving the transparency and integrity of the federal government is top priority."

The law includes a number of penalties that would hold the official responsible if the claims are proven, including retirement without pension.

Under the new law:

  • Prosecutors cannot investigate or question a minister or senior official without approval from the Federal Supreme Council, which comprises the seven Rulers of the Emirates.
  • Complaints can be submitted to prosecutors. If a complaint is issued against an official, prosecutors must inform the UAE Cabinet and the minister the official works for. The official should be called in for questioning.
  • If the complaint is against a minister or minister of state, the Minister of Cabinet affairs - currently Mohammed Al Gergawi - must be informed on a confidential basis and he will determine, based on evidence, whether to proceed with the report. The minister must inform the Prime Minister if investigations go ahead.
  • The Prime Minister has the authority to assign a minister to follow up on investigations until they are complete.

When filing a report against a senior official or minister:

  • Investigations will be carried out by public prosecutors. The investigator must hold a law degree.
  • If evidence is found of misconduct, be it criminal or disciplinary, the Attorney General will refer the case back to the Minister of Cabinet Affairs, who will seek approval from the Prime Minister to present the report to the Head of State and proceed with legal action.
  • If the Attorney General determines there is no need to proceed, they must inform the Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Prime Minister that the complaint is dropped.

In case of dispute against a report by a senior official or minister:

  • The Attorney General has the authority to issue a travel ban against the official or minister, freeze their assets (specifically their money) and the assets of their wife and young children (ie their dependents).
  • The senior official or minister can dispute a report made against them by submitting a counter-report to the court, which must rule on the issue within two weeks.
  • The court's decision is final and cannot be appealed except after three months from the date of judgment - unless there are extenuating circumstances

Judgment on the report:

  • After a decision is made against a senior official or minister, the public prosecutor will file a case in court
  • The court will examine the case and make a final ruling
  • The court also has the authority to remove the travel ban and unfreeze the assets of the senior official or minister

Punishments, which are final and cannot be appealed (except if overruled by the President):

  • Reprimand
  • Forced retirement
  • Dismissal from work
  • Dismissal without compensation or pension

If the senior official or minister resigns, following a report or complaint, this will not exempt them from due process such as investigation and court proceedings.

Appeal against punishments:

  • The appeal should be submitted within 30 days from judgment.
  • Appeals will be submitted to the head of the court, who will form a committee of six judges not previously involved in the case. Their decision is final.
Updated: September 1st 2021, 4:37 AM