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criminal law

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April 20, 2019

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Can a bad social media post mean jail? Our lawyers explain new rules

The misuse of information technology, is subject to the Federal Law on Combating IT Crimes.

The WhatsApp application, which is a mere means of communication between individuals, has led many people to courts for abuse. It has become prominent evidence before UAE courts and a clear evidence of the commission of some crimes under the information technology law.

According to lawyer Ali Mansouri, the misuse of information technology, is subject to the Federal Law on Combating Information Technology Crimes. Article 20 provides for imprisonment and a fine of not less than Dh250,000 up to Dh500,000 or one of these penalties for each of the third parties or assigns an act that would make it punishable or disrespectful by others, using an information network or an information technology means.

He said that some individual may publish or republish offensive statements or videos without knowing the legal consequences of this act punishable by the IT Crimes Act.

Cybercrimes penalties

Dr. Hassan Elhais, legal counsellor of Al Rowaad Advocates said that cybercrimes - most commonly insults and threats issued online - may not necessarily face imprisonment and deportation under the amended cybercrimes law. Following the amendments made to the UAE Cybercrimes Law, the court may rule to place the accused under an electronic probation and monitoring and prevent them from using virtual platforms during a period not exceeding the penalty prescribed in the law.

He said the punishment under the original law for insulting someone via the Internet included jail time and mandatory deportation for expats - both of which can ruin the life of the offender. But it is no longer the case after the amendments made. "It is now the judge's decision to impose deportation or not. Earlier, judges had no call as the deportation was obligatory," he said.

Hate crime

Emirati lawyer Awatif Mohammed explained that the changes exclude online sexual crimes and felonies that are referred to the criminal court such as hate crimes, issuing sex-related threats, promoting prostitution and running human trafficking website.

"Deportation is still obligatory for these crimes and punishments of such acts can even reach death penalty," she said.

Mohammed said the introduction of electronic probation and monitoring for first time offences, marks a step in the right direction towards establishing an advanced legal framework for cybercrimes in the country. She added that the UAE is the first country in the region to establish such a penalty for misusing information systems, similar to that implemented in the US.

Amendments to the UAE cybercrime law

According to the Decree No. 02 of 2018 issued by the President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan regarding the amendment of the UAE Cybercrimes Law Article Nos. 26, 28 and 42 of Federal Decree-Law No. 05 of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes, Article No. 42 entails that subject to the second paragraph of Article No. 121 of the UAE Penal Code, the court may decide deportation of a foreigner who is convicted in any of the crimes specified in Federal Decree-Law No. 05 upon execution of the sentence adjudged.

Blackmailing

Captain Abdullah Al Shehhi from the cybercrime department said the number of blackmailing cases has been increasing over the years. In 2018, the police recorded 175 cases, as compared to 112 in 2017 and 87 in 2016.

Fifteen blackmailing cases in 2018 involved children that the police dealt. "Children having easy access to smart phones which might threaten their safety if parents don't supervise and guide them," he said.


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