Almost 90 percent of inmates in UAE jails were convicted of drug-related crimes, according to a survey by UK organisation Detained in Dubai.
The survey, which was based on interviews with 144 inmates, found murder accounted for 4.2 percent of convictions, theft/robbery 2.78 percent, fraud/embezzlement 2.78 percent and rape 0.69 percent.
The majority of those interviewed were from Iran, India, Pakistan, The Philippines, Nigeria and other Middle Eastern and African nations, with a minority from Europe, the US, South Africa, Bulgaria, Russia and the Ukraine.
According to the survey, of the 88.19 percent convicted for drugs offences, 37 percent involved 25 grams of drugs or more. A further 18.6 percent involved drugs of 10.001-25 grams and 17.5 percent involved 0.001-1 grams.
The survey said 9.3 percent of cases were for drugs offences of 2.001-5 grams and 4 percent were for 5.001-10 grams.
The survey excluded the 3 percent of the cases where the amounts exceeded 1000 grams. The cumulative sentences for these 97 detainees amounted to 2,350 years of imprisonment for a total of 8.147Kg of drugs.
Of those interviewed, the survey found that 80 percent had been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison, 18 percent to between five and 10 years and the remaining five percent were completing sentences of under five years.
Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai, made several recommendations on strengthening the judicial process based on the survey’s findings.
These included reducing the number of trials in the courts by handing out automatic fines and deportations instead of criminal convictions for less serious offences. This would also reduce the court's workload, she said.
Stirling also recommended decriminalising bounced cheques, debts and other minor financial misdemeanors, which were handled as a serious crime in the UAE.
Other recommendations made as a result of the survey included providing legal aid representation to all persons arrested in the UAE, ensuring documents signed by detainees are only in a language they understand and that evidence is made available for analysis by the defendants.
“It is clear to me that the issues highlighted here today are of great importance and yet there are many changes that are obvious and easy to make, with little investment from the government,” Stirling said.
“I suggest that if the UAE improves its judicial system, the country, its residents and its future, will benefit greatly.”
In the case of prisoners held before trial, 42 percent were detained between six to 12 months, 28 percent for three to six months and 16 percent between 12 to 36 months. A further 12 percent were in jail for less than three months. Two percent were detained for 36 months or longer.