Perjury in UAE: Can a defendant get away by using double negative?

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Perjury can be defined as an intentional act of lying, withholding the truth, administering false testimony, swearing or any act done with the intent of deception or misleading the legal system or process. An underlying criminal intent or object is mandatory to establish an act of perjury. To constitute perjury the person making a statement / submission must have knowledge of the fact that he is making a false statement and or believes what he is stating is not true.

The UAE laws regarding Perjury are contained in multiple section of the Federal law no. 3 of 1987 promulgating the penal code and its amendments(‘Penal Code’),

Article 253:

Shall be subject to a jail sentence for a minimum period of three months, whoever gives a false testimony before a judicial authority or a competent organization having jurisdiction to hear witnesses after oath, denies the truth, or keeps silent about all or part of the relevant facts of the case known to him, regardless of whether the witness is admitted to testify or not, and of whether his testimony was accepted or not in such proceedings. Should he perpetrate such act during the investigation of a felony or trial thereof, he shall be sentenced to temporary imprisonment. In case the false testimony leads to death sentence or life imprisonment, the author thereof shall be sentenced to the same penalty.

 Further Article 254 and 255  state,

Article 254: Shall be exempted from penalty:

  • The witness who gives his testimony during a criminal investigation, if he retracts his false testimony prior to the closing of the investigation and before he is denounced.
  • The witness who gave his testimony in any trial, should he retracts his false testimony prior to any decision, even if not final, in the substance of the case.

Article 255: Shall be exempted from penalty:

  • The witness who, if he tells the truth, shall be subject to a severe prejudice in his freedom, honour or shall expose to such severe prejudice his spouse, even if divorced, one of his ascendants, descendants, brothers, sisters or in-laws of the same degrees.
  • The witness who reveals before the court his name, surname and nickname and who had not to be heard as a witness or if he had to be told that he has the right, if he wishes, to abstain from testifying.
  • In the two above instances, if such perjury exposes another person to legal prosecution or to a judgment, the author shall be subject to a jail sentence for a minimum term of six months.

Perjury is a seriously offense as the intent of perjury is to mislead the court; any act of a witness or a person involved in the proceeding of the investigation or court proceedings, commits an act of perjury which leads to the subsequent conviction of an accused, can lead to the perjurer being pushed with the same punishment that the accused was awarded including death penalty or other provisions as said in above articles.

Further, let us examine the usage of double negatives in law and let’s first start by understanding, what’s a double negative?

  A double negative is when two negative words or constructions are used within a single clause. Sentences with double negatives are not grammatically correct . . . and they’re confusing. That’s because double negatives cancel each other out and make a positive. Eg : When someone makes a statement ,”I haven’t seen nothing “. Here it means that it is nothing that you have not seen and that implies you have seen something. Is that not true? Think over it. You may say, “Well…. technically it is right.”

The general rule of practice is that a legal statement should be clear and unambiguous and should be able to convey one’s conclusive information. The use of double negatives leads to ambiguity and thus, defeats the very purpose of conclusivity; so the usage of double negatives should be avoided in statements or submissions in court by both witnesses and the defendant. A defendant should not use double negatives in a court of law and in such instances when used, the credibility of his statements can be acutely scrutinized by the court.

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