UN visitor looks at UAE’s judges and lawyers

WAM ABU DHABI, 5th February 2014 (WAM): The Ministry of Foreign Affairs today welcomed the visit to the UAE by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Ms. Gabriela Knaul, which concluded today. It began on 28th January.

“The UAE is committed to strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights,” the Assistant Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs, Dr. Abdul Rahim Al Awadi, said in a statement.

“As a Member of the UN Human Rights Council, the UAE is particularly committed to cooperate with the Council’s Special Procedures. Accepting this visit helped to fulfil a recommendation made to the UAE during its second Universal Periodic Review by the Council, which took place last year.” “We were pleased,” Dr. Al Awadi said, ” to engage in a co-operative and constructive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of the judicial system in the UAE. The independence of the judiciary is guaranteed by the Constitution of the UAE. Judges, in discharging their duties, are subject to no authority other than the law and their own conscience.” “We have received the preliminary observations of the Special Rapporteur and will consider her comments and recommendations as part of our on-going efforts to strengthen our judicial system and the implementation of human rights,” he added.

In her press conference, Knaul discussed her preliminary observations during her visit to the UAE, prior to the presentation of a formal report to the UN Human Rights Council next year. Thanking the government for its invitation and cooperation with her mandate, Knaul expressed her pleasure that the UAE, as a member of the Human Rights Council, is setting an example of cooperation with its mechanisms in the Gulf region.

Noting that the government had advised her that it was in the process of drafting a new federal law on the judiciary, Knaul stated that she was looking forward to receiving a copy in the hope that her recommendations would be taken into account.

Praising the progress the nation has made in a very short period, and saying that its achievements should be commended, Knaul went on to say that there are still challenges which need to be assessed and acted upon in order to minimise obstacles to the state’s future stable development, citing the differences between the application of law in the individual Emirates, at Federal level, and in free zones, where foreign common law principles apply to business cases.

In a comment on the advanced computer-based court and case management systems currently being used in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and their innovative on-line applications, she expressed a hope that this system could be made available in more cases and in federal courts.

She also recommended the establishment of an independent bar association, saying that a self-governing body would be a key element in maintaining the independence of lawyers.

Among a raft of items included in her recommendations for transparency and equality, Knaul drew attention to the need to put more resources into training and capacity building for judges, prosecutors and lawyers, both men and women, in order to help achieve the ultimate aim of Emiratisation in the Judiciary.

Knaul suggested that some other areas should be examined, such as the establishment of independent oversight committees and a revision of the functions of the public prosecution department.

Some comments made by the Special Rapporteur on aspects of the judicial and legal process, however, prompted a response from the Assistant Foreign Minister for Legal Affairs.

“We regret that some comments of the Special Rapporteur were based on information from undisclosed sources and were consistent with the politically motivated campaign of certain groups to tarnish the reputation of the UAE, making it difficult to evaluate the credibility and impartiality of this information and hence the validity of the issues raised. Nonetheless, we will continue to engage constructively with the Special Rapporteur in carrying out her mandate and will carefully consider her report when it is issued,” Al Awadi said.