What are the punishments for child abduction in the UAE?

Abduction in legal terms refers to ‘taking a person away by means of persuasion, fraud, or force’. It can also be an act of unlawful interference with a family relationship, such as the taking of a child from its parent, irrespective of whether the person abducted consents or not.  

The Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 promulgating the penal code (the ‘UAE penal Code’) penalizes the act of kidnapping, and Article 344 reads as:

Shall be sentenced to imprisonment, whoever illegally kidnaps, arrests, detains or deprives of freedom, a person by any means whatsoever and whether by himself or through the intermediary of others.

The penalty shall be life imprisonment in the following in- stances: 

  • If the act takes place by impersonating a public capacity, pretending the performance or assignment of a public service or to contact under a false representation. 
  • In case the act is performed by use of subterfuge or ac- companied by use of force, threat of killing, inflicting severe body harm or by acts of physical or psychological torture. 
  • If the act is perpetrated by two or more armed persons. 
  • If the period of kidnapping, arresting, detaining or depriving from freedom exceeds one month. 
  • In case the victim is of female sex, a juvenile, an insane or imbecile person. 
  • In case the purpose of the act is to draw profit, revenge, rape of the victim, disgrace him, injure him or have him perpetrate a crime. 
  • If the act is perpetrated against a public servant during, or because of, the discharge of his duties. 

Should the act lead to the death of the victim, the sanction shall be the death penalty or life imprisonment. Shall be sanctioned to the same penalty prescribed for the principal perpetrator, any of the intermediaries in the perpetration of any of the crimes.

A sentence of life imprisonment or even the death penalty can thus be imposed on a person for child abduction in the UAE.

Parental Child Abduction:

Parental child abduction may also occur, and it can be best understood through an example: Suppose a British husband divorces his Australian Wife and, as part of the divorce terms, grants the mother the custody of their five-year-old daughter. The mother now lives in the UAE, and the father visits occasionally. On one such visit, the father decides to take the daughter back with him to UK without informing the mother. The mother, on finding this out and on being unable to contact her daughter, immediately registers a criminal case against the father in the UAE as this act constitutes ‘parental child abduction’ in the UAE.

Parental child abduction thus constitutes a criminal offence in the UAE if a parent or grandparent abducts their own child or grandchild from the person who has legal guardianship or custody established pursuant to a judicial decision by UAE courts. Under the UAE laws, a parent can also obtain a court order to impose a travel ban on their minor children, which will be enforced at all airports in the country in order to ensure that the child is not taken out of the country without permission of the parent or the custodian of the child.

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