Explained: Human Trafficking and its Punishments in the UAE

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Human trafficking, generally understood to mean the trade of humans for forced labour, slavery, exploitation including sexual.

The United Arab Emirates prohibits human trafficking through a governing legislation, called the Federal Law No 51 of 2006 on Combating Human Trafficking Crimes (Human Trafficking Law) and other action plans, such as shelter and social support centres, toll free helpline numbers, amongst others.

What is the Crime of Human Trafficking?

Article 1 (bis) (1) of Human Trafficking Law defines the crime of human trafficking. Article 1 (bis) (1) states as below.

1. “1- Shall be deemed to commit a human trafficking crime, any person who: a- Sells, offers or promises to sell or buy persons. b- Attracts, employs, recruits, transports, transfers, harbours, hosts, delivers to receives persons, whether from inside the Country or through its national borders, by means of threat of or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability for the purpose of exploitation c- Gives or receives payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of the exploitation of the latter.

2. The following acts shall be considered as “human trafficking”, even if this does not involve the use of any of the means indicated in the previous Paragraph: a- The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation. b- Selling or offering to sell or buy a child.

3. Exploitation shall include, under the provision of this Article, all forms of sexual exploitation or the exploitation of the prostitution of others, forced labour or services, the removal of organs, slavery, begging, or practices similar to slavery or servitude.”

Accordingly, a human trafficking crime is said to have been committed by a person if he buys or sells persons including children, recruits children for exploitation or recruits persons through coercion, fraud or abduction for exploitation. Exploitation includes sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery, removing organs, prostitution, begging and similar activities.

What is the punishment for Human Trafficking?

The crime of human trafficking is punishable under Article 2 with minimum imprisonment of at least 5 years and maximum 15 years. Fines of at least AED 100,000 is also prescribed as a punishment.

That said, life imprisonment may be imposed in certain circumstances of human trafficking, including in the case where the victim is a child or a disabled person, or the perpetrator is the victim’s spouse or has authority over them, or is a public officer or public servant abusing his position for the crime, or if the act is committed by threat of death or serious injury or physical or mental torture, amongst others.

Article 2, which sets out the punishments for human trafficking, is set out below.

“Any person who commits a crime involving human trafficking set forth in Article 1 (bis) (1) of this Law shall be subject to temporary imprisonment for no less than five years and to a fine of at least one hundred thousand Dirhams

Life imprisonment shall be sentenced in the following cases:

1. If the victim is a child or a disabled person.

2. If the act is committed by use of threat of imminent death or serious injury or by physical or mental torture, or if the criminal is armed.

3. If the perpetrator has established or administered an organised criminal group or is a member of such group or if he has participated in the acts knowing of its purposes.

4. If the perpetrator is the victim’s spouse or any ascendant or descendent of the same, or having authority there over.

5. If the perpetrator is a public officer or public servant who has abused his position or authority for the commission of the crime.

6. If the crime is transnational in nature.

7. If the victim, is suffering by reason of the crime, from an incurable disease or a permanent disability.”

Can you disclose the names or identity of the victims of human trafficking crimes?

No, the names and photos of the victims or witnesses should not be published by any means of publication. If a person publishes the name of photos of either the victim or witnesses involved in human trafficking crimes, he will be punished with imprisonment and fine of at least AED 10,000 or either under Article 6 (bis) of the Human Trafficking Law.

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