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Deportation made optional in UAE cybercrime law

Published in: Khaleej Times

The court may rule to place the accused under an electronic probation and monitoring.

People charged with cybercrime related cases will no longer be subjected to mandatory deportation following the amendments made to the UAE Cybercrimes Law, according to authorities concerned.

Cybercrimes - most commonly insults and threats issued online - may not necessarily face imprisonment and deportation under the amended cyber crimes law. However, the court may rule to place the accused under an electronic probation and monitoring, and prevent him from using virtual platforms during a period not exceeding the penalty prescribed in the law.

The Dubai Court of Appeals recently overturned the deportation of a Canadian national, based on the Emiri Decree Number 2/2018 recently issued by the President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Dr. Hassan Elhais, legal counsellor of Awatif Mohammad Shoqi Advocates & Legal Consultancy, praised the new changes to the cybercrimes law, saying that it will greatly benefit people who have no criminal records.

"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," Dr Elhais said.

"In the light of the new amendment, the Dubai Court of Appeals has recently overturned the verdict of a lower court to deport our client, a Canadian citizen who was accused of insulting his former employer via an email," said Dr Elhais.

The Dubai Court of Misdemeanor's verdict, which was based on Federal Law 5 of 2012, prior to its amendment, included a Dh10,000 fine and a mandatory deportation of the client, said Dr Elhais. He added that the case was put before the Court of Appeals, requesting the overturn of deportation, as the original charge of issuing insults online is a misdemeanor and not a criminal offence. And under the amended law, "The court ruled in our client's favour and ordered the cancellation of the deportation," said Dr Elhais.

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 that the introduction of electronic probation and monitoring for the 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 USA.

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, the law will be replaced with updated provisions.

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.

The previous Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 was issued to protect the privacy of information published online including data, information, credit card numbers, bank account statements and details of electronic payment methods. It expands the definition of conduct violating the privacy of others by criminalising eavesdropping, transmitting and disclosing communications (including audio and visual material); taking photographs of others and copying, saving or publishing them; and publishing news, comments, statements and information even if they are authentic.

Under Article 20, any person who insults others or attributes to an incident that make others react with contempt using an electronic site shall be punished by imprisonment or a fine of not less than Dh250,000 and not exceeding Dh500,000. Insult or slander against public employees is considered an aggravating circumstance of the crime and the person will be deported.

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