DUBAI // Couples arrested for kissing in public, a crime punishable by deportation, cannot plead ignorance of the law, a senior Dubai judge has warned. Expatriates are responsible for knowing the laws of the country, including those pertaining to public decency, said Saif al Nasr, a Court of Appeal judge. "Any act that violates the sensibilities of the local community, that offends, shocks or disgusts the public, falls under the classification of a scandalous public act," said Judge Nasr.
"Whether a couple are married or not, if they commit such an act in plain view of the public, they are culpable. If they are married they should respect the culture and traditions of the country they are in and show affection to one another behind closed doors in the privacy of their own home." Kissing, hugging or making rude gestures in public are all offences that fall into the category of a scandalous public act. Two years ago, the penal code was amended to make deportation mandatory for expatriates convicted of such crimes.
The law has been strictly enforced. Once a case is referred by the public prosecution to the courts, any conviction, even a suspended jail sentence, would warrant compulsory deportation. For the same crimes, Emiratis can be imprisoned or fined, or both. The judge added that a complainant's word was enough to convict people of such crimes. "The person filing a complaint does not need to have witnesses, after all, the plaintiff swears an oath when giving evidence before the court. That is enough."
Earlier this year, an expatriate couple arrested for kissing in a parked car narrowly avoided being deported after being found not guilty of a scandalous public act. A passer-by noticed the couple, photographed them in the act and then reported them to the police. "The man was planning to take his wife out to dinner for her birthday after a heated argument and he was apologising to her and kissed her. A man who happened to be walking by saw them and took their picture," said their lawyer, Nabih Bader. The couple escaped with a stern warning from a judge.
"In cases when a conviction is rendered in the Court of First Instance we appeal the judgment before the Court of Appeal and sometimes ask for the deportation order to be lifted for humanitarian reasons, but it is rare for a deportation order to be lifted in such cases," said Mr Bader. "The judge does not have the discretion to waive the deportation order. It applies to all such cases that are proven against foreign nationals."