Ministry of Interior warns ignorance is no excuse for violating the state’s conservative laws
The UAE government has released a list of the top crimes committed by foreigners in the country and warned there was no excuse for ignorance of the law.
Drink driving is the most common crime committed by non-locals, although the article published in the Ministry of Interior’s monthly English-language magazine 999 is not clear whether the offenders are only tourists or also include expatriates living in the conservative Islamic state.
The list also includes taking pictures of strangers, sunbathing in “very skimpy” clothing, wearing disrespectful clothing and public display of affection.
Other offences mostly related to common traffic violations.
The magazine’s editor in chief, Lt Colonel Awadh Saleh Al Kindi, said there was no excuse for not knowing the law when foreigners arrived in the country.
“There is an abundance of information on the Internet,” he said.
“This commonly used legal principle, Ignorantia juris non excusat (ignorance of the law is no defence), is an internationally followed legal principle holding that [the] person who is unaware of a law liable for violating that law.
“There is no valid reason for tourists and visitors to not find out more about their destination country’s customs and laws before or even after arriving here.
“There are enough learning resources – and our cover story will make for a very good starting point for anyone considering visiting the UAE for work or play.”
Foreigners charged with offences that do not exist in their country often make news headlines, within the UAE and internationally.
A Canadian executive for UAE telecommunications provider Etisalat was jailed for a month in November for cursing at an employee. He had argued that he was not guilty because the curse word was not an offence in his native Canada.
The Gulf state also has been criticised internationally for some legal cases.
In July, international pressure forced Dubai authorities to pardon a Norwegian woman sentenced to jail after reporting that she had been raped.
Activist groups also have popped up, warning tourists of the potential legal dangers of visiting the UAE. Dubai-based Emirates’ alliance with Qantas caused some in Australia to question whether the airline would provide information to passengers when they disembarked at Dubai airport about the state’s conservative laws, including in relation to public affection, drinking alcohol and clothing requirements.
But Al Kindi said UAE laws were designed to balance personal freedom and respect regardless of a person’s faith and nationality.
“Visitors and residents should avoid improper conduct or inappropriate behaviour that can otherwise lead to fines, imprisonment and deportation,” he said.
Al Kindi said the UAE has taken a global lead by establishing the Law Respect Culture Bureau within the Ministry of Interior with the aim to promote legal awareness and instil a law-respecting culture among community members.