20 June 2006, Khaleej Times
DUBAI — UAE has never carried out any death-by-stoning sentence, officials at the Ministry of Justice told Khaleej Times in the context of an order passed by an emirati court recently.
Even as the appeals court has amended the Fujairah Shariah Court’s verdict, in an adultery case yesterday, and reduced the sentence to one-year jail for the accused man, Amnesty International has launched a global initiative against such practices.
The man, Shahin Abdull Rahman, had been convicted last month of committing adultery with housemaid Asmaa Bikham Bijam, who was also sentenced to 100 lashes and a year in jail.
The Fujairah court had been told that the couple began an affair after meeting by chance in a local market. Rahman admitted he was married, but started the affair because he was lonely after being unable to arrange for his wife to move with him to the Emirates from Bangladesh.
Rahman and Bijam were reported to police last year by the maid's employer, who suspected the domestic servant was bringing a man to her room once the rest of the household was asleep.
The maid's employer kept the girl under surveillance and after seeing her let a man in through a back door called the police.
Witnesses told the Fujairah court the couple were naked in bed when the police burst in through the maid's bedroom door.
After a trial in April 2005, the court eventually handed down the stoning and flogging sentence on June 10.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also toed the Amnesty line on the issue. HRW opposes 'capital punishment in all circumstances".
A legal expert with the Ministry of Justice, who said such sentences were never carried out in the UAE, said a confession and four witnesses to an actual sex act were needed for a stoning sentence to be carried out.
Inferring the sentence was more symbolic than literal, the Ministry expert said the convicted man would have the sentence commuted to a lesser punishment, or even be acquitted, if he appealed his sentence and withdrew his confession.
Last week, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation quashed a flogging sentence issued for a misdemeanor offence and advised judges to restrict the future issuing of such sentences for minor offences.
The committee, presided over by Justice Minister Mohammed bin Nakhira Al Dhahiri, took the decision after reviewing evidence that showed many judges were imposing flogging sentences where fines or minor prison sentences were actually warranted.
Dr Mohammed Mahmoud Al Kamali, Director General of the Judicial Institute, said the enforcement of flogging had become a popular sentence with judges, who were applying it even on traffic and juvenile cases. "This has raised a lot of problems which spurred the committee to quash the sentence," he said.
Dr Al Kamali said misdemeanor crimes demanded a sentence of jail term for one month to three years and a fine between Dh100 to Dh30,000 as per the penal code.