criminal law


May 09, 2021



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The United Arab Emirates has a no-tolerance policy when it comes to drug trafficking. The Federal Decree-Law No. 30/2021 On Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances, commonly referred to as the ‘Drug law’ criminalizes the import, export, transport, production, manufacture, bringing in, possessing, or acquiring of narcotic and psychotropic substances in the UAE.


Article 10 of the Drug Law states:

  1. “1. It is prohibited to import, export, transport, produce, manufacture, bring in, possess, or acquire any of the Narcotics or Psychotropic Substances listed in Schedules 1, 2, 4/Part I, and 5 attached to this Decree-Law, or carry out other types of activities and acts in connection therewith.

  2. It is permissible to carry out controlled medical uses and scientific research on the substances listed in Schedules 1, 2, 4, and 5 attached to this Decree-Law, with the knowledge of the specialized scientific authorities to be determined by a decision of the Minister of Health and Community Protection in coordination with the Ministry of Interior, and in accordance with the conditions and procedures issued by a Cabinet decision.”

Article 11 of the Drug Law also states the following:

“It is prohibited to import, export, transport, produce, manufacture, bring, possess, or acquire any of the Narcotics or Psychotropic Substances listed in Schedules 3, 6, 7, and 8 attached to this Decree-Law or carry out other types of activities and acts in connection therewith except in the authorised cases and under the conditions stipulated in this Decree-Law.”

Penalties for Violations 

When narcotic or psychotropic substances are classified under the schedule of the Drug Law, then the punishment for violating Articles 10 and 11 have been set out in the following provisions.

“Article 57 Violation of the provisions of Clause 1 of Article 10 and Article 14 of this Decree-Law is punishable by the penalties prescribed in Schedule 10 attached to this Decree-Law.

The death penalty shall be imposed if the crime is committed with the intent of trafficking or promotion, or if the perpetrator belongs to a hostile group or organised gang or works for its benefit.

“Article 58 Violation of the provision of Article 11 is punishable by the penalties prescribed in Schedule 10 attached to this Decree-Law.

Death penalty or life imprisonment shall be imposed if the crime is committed with the intent of trafficking or promotion, or if the perpetrator belongs to a hostile group or organised gang or works for its benefit.”

According to Schedule 10 of the Drug Law, violating the provisions related to Articles 10 and 11 would result in penalties of not less than 7 or 10 years of imprisonment (depending upon the narcotic/psychotropic substances), as well as fines. Depending upon the weight of the drugs, the accused may be liable for life imprisonment as well.

Article 57 of the Drug Law further provides that if the crime related to violations of Article 10/1 is committed with the intent of trafficking or promotion, or the accused belongs to a hostile group or organized gang, or works for its benefit, the death penalty could be imposed.

Article 58 of the Drugs Law provides for the death penalty or imprisonment for violating the provisions of Article 11 if the crime was committed with the intent of trafficking.

Deportation of a Foreigner

Additionally, the courts may also order the deportation of the foreigner involved in crimes of drugs. Article 75 of the Drug Law states as follows. 

The court shall decide to deport the foreigner who has been convicted of one of the crimes stipulated in this Decree-Law, and the deportation ruling of the foreigner shall be mandatory if he is convicted of one of the crimes of abuse, personal use, possession or acquisition with intent to abuse.

Rehabilitation Centres for Addicts

Importantly, the Drug Law provides specialised units as rehabilitation centres for users and addicts. In accordance with Article 5 of the New Drugs Law, specialized units serving as rehabilitation and treatment centres for addicts of narcotics and psychotropic substances are to be established by the Ministry of Health and Community Protection. Article 6 of the New Drugs Law further states all information related to the affairs of the addicts and abusers confined to these units will be confidential and disclosure or broadcast of such information is prohibited, unless required by law.

Using narcotic or psychotropic substances for personal use could result in imprisonment and fines (Articles 41, 42, 43 and 44). That said, if the convict is a first-time offender, Article 45 of this law entitles the competent court to replace the penalties of imprisonment and fines by placing the convict in a rehabilitation unit.

Exemption from Criminal Proceedings

Another important provision in the Drug Law is that no criminal proceedings will be instituted against a drug abuser when the person voluntarily presents themselves to the investigative authorities and seeks treatment.

Article 89 states as follows:

“No criminal action shall be instituted against the abuser of Narcotics, Psychotropic Substances, or substances in respect of which the provision of the second paragraph of Article 12 of this Decree-Law applies if the abuser, his spouse, or one of his relatives up to the second degree, or the person responsible for his upbringing, submits spontaneously to the Unit or the police before arresting him or before issuing a warrant for his arrest, requests that he be confined to the Unit for treatment, and he shall be confined thereto until the Unit decides to release him.

In cases where the confinement is at the request of a person other than the abuser, the confining party shall obtain the approval of the Public Prosecution for confining the abuser or releasing him from the Unit. The Public Prosecution shall order his confinement when it is proven that he has abused Narcotics or Psychotropic Substances. In all cases, the treatment and rehabilitation period may not exceed one year.

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