Can minors be sued for defamation?

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Defamation is a criminal offence pursuant to UAE laws. In addition, an aggrieved person may also institute a civil case for claiming damages on account of defamation.

Article 372 Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 and its amendments (The UAE Penal Code) states that “Whoever attributes to another person, by any means of publicity, an incident which makes him liable to punishment or contempt, shall be punished by detention for a period not exceeding two years or by a fine not exceeding Dh20,000”. In addition pursuant to Article 20 of the Federal Decree by Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combating Cyber Crimes and its amendments (“Cyber Crimes Law”) states that, “Without prejudice to the provisions of slander crime prescribed in Islamic Sharia, any person who insults a third party or has attributed to him an incident that may make him subject to punishment or contempt by a third party, by using an Information Network or an Information Technology Tool shall be punished by imprisonment and a fine not less than (AED 250,000) and not exceeding (AED 500,000) or by any of these punishments.

The punishments for juvenile delinquents is applied in the UAE pursuant to Federal Law No. 9 of 1976 and its amendments concerning ‘Juvenile Delinquents and Vagrants’.

A juvenile is defined under the said law as person who did not complete the age of eighteen at the time of perpetrating the incriminating act or found in a state of vagrancy (Article 1)

Article 7 “If the juvenile, who completed the age of seven and didn’t reach the age of sixteen, perpetrated a crime sanctioned by the penal law or in any other law, the judge shall order to take the measures he deems adequate”

Article 8 “Should the juvenile who completed the age of sixteen perpetrate a crime sanctioned by the Penal Code, or any other law (1), the judge may order to take any of the measures stipulated in this law, as deemed appropriate by him, instead of the prescribed penalties”

Further, Article 15 of the said law lays out the punishments that may be imposed on a juvenile subject to the discretion of the Judge which includes, judicial supervision, charity work and could include heavier punishment such as permanent deportation from the UAE.

Article 15:

Measures that may be taken in respect of the juvenile are the following:

  1. Rebuke.
  2. Handing him over.
  3. Putting him under judicial supervision.
  4. Prohibition to frequent specific places.
  5. Interdiction of performing a specific work.
  6. Compelling him to undergo professional training.
  7. Confining in a treatment asylum, rehabilitation institute educational home therapeutically shelter, rehabilitation institute, educational house or reformation institute, as the case may be.
  8. Deportation outside the country.

Defamation is considered a serious offence in the UAE, and the punishments imposed include imprisonment, fines and deportation. With the increasing use of social media, incidents of cyberbullying which include defamatory elements, are also on the rise, and juveniles can both be the targets and perpetrators of such acts. Pursuant to the provisions discussed above, a juvenile can be prosecuted for committing any act that is penalized under the UAE laws.

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