Monday, April 05, 2010

'Witnesses not called'

Sorry I'm repeating myself but I'm really incensed by this.

In yesterday's post about the appeal by the British couple against their sentence for alleged kissing I said:

At an earlier hearing there were claims that witnesses would be presented. There's been no mention of them in the radio and print reports I've come across, so I assume none appeared.

The BBC now has a quote from Ayman Najafi, one of the accused, that adds yet another very disturbing factor to the case:

"It's very harsh, based on contradictory evidence. The courts haven't called on any of our witnesses who are prepared to testify that this didn't happen."

Why would witnesses not be called?

Was the court asked to hear them?

If not why not?

And if it was, why were they not called?

Add to that the previous factors I highlighted in earlier posts; the accuser said her two year old had complained that the couple were kissing indecently, then that she had seen it herself. The discrepancy in the complaint and the validity of a two-year-old's word were not questioned. The accuser did not appear in court, her complaint was a written statement.

Maybe the accused are guilty, maybe they're not. That's what a justice system is supposed to resolve. Call witnesses, insist that the accuser is in court to give evidence, hear all the evidence, weigh the evidence - true evidence, not just one person's unsubstantiated claim - and then arrive at a decision based on that evidence.

No-one knows whether the couple in this case, and others like them, are actually guilty because none of that happened.

The other case going on is similar - I posted about it on March 29.

Briefly, back in November Simon Andrews and an 19 year old Iraqi student got into a stupid road rage situation - the usual tailgating light-flashing thing that goes on daily. They had an argument. Then the student called the police and claimed that Simon gave him the finger so he was charged with indecency.

No witnesses, one word against another, the student has never bothered to turn up in court, and isn't required to.

How does this sound? The student was mad at the traffic situation and in a rage called the police to make things as bad as possible for the other motorist.

A few hours later he'd calmed down and forgotten the whole incident.

The other motorist, Simon, however, has already been punished because his passport has been confiscated. He has to keep appearing in court to defend himsef yet the accuser doesn't have to appear even once.

If the accuser can't be bothered to appear in court to present his claim, and be questioned in an attempt to arrive at the truth, the case should be dismissed.

All cases where the accuser doesn't bother to appear should be dismissed.

One word against another, maybe he's guilty maybe he isn't. But if the evidence isn't presented, witnesses aren't sought and questioned, the accuser isn't in court, the verdict may just as well be based on the toss of a coin.

Justice should not only be done, it must be seen to be done.

BBC report here.

Simon Andrews, Gulf News.

In 7Days the Simon Andrews story says that "the case was adjourned yesterday for the defence to prepare its case." Simon Andrews, 7Days. 'Prepare the case' after all this time? That's bizzare.


Susan said...

Its all extremely depressing. I love living here but stuff like this makes me wonder. Now I have to reassure worried elderly relatives at home that everything is fine, but I'm not really sure it is.

James said...

Her two year old daughter made the complaint? My god, my daughter turned two in mid-March and so far her vocabulary consists of 8 or 9 words. I obviously need to enrol her in one of these Arabic nurseries to expedite her language skills!

I also find it strangely ironic that the incident happened in an American-style Diner. Emirati woman complains of an insult to her religion and way of life while tucking into burger and fries at 2am. Talk about wanting your cake and eating it too...

Oussama said...

It appears that Dubai is undergoing changes, major cultural changes and they are not sure how to handle it. They are reluctant to come out and say we are going to be like Sharjah, so they are testing the water. If Dubai elect to change then expats will adapt as long as they know the rules. How the world will view this and whether it will be considered a cosmopolitan progressive destination in the MENA region remains to be seen.

Doug Freeman said...

The whole Law & Judiciary system here needs a major overhaul. And at the rate at which things are progressing here, I don't see that happening in the near future.

Anonymous said...

Oussama, its not about ultural change, and I have become hoarse saying that.

The issue is:

1) Why are witnesses not allowed to testify for the accused?

2) Why didnt the prosecution not be asked to bring forward the witness?

This way, if I dont like the way someone looks or maybe is wearing the jersey of a club I hate, I will just raise a false complaint and not even be required to come to court for that...

Seabee said...

Oussama, "How the world will view this and whether it will be considered a cosmopolitan progressive destination in the MENA region remains to be seen."

I think that's already clear by the reporting of these cases in the international media and in the comments left and on internet forums. They're not talking about the system as I am but emphasise the laws themselves. The general theme is that Dubai is very different from the image it's projected and visitors need to be on their guard.

Anon@12.24, I couldn't agree more. As I've said so many times it's not the law itself that I have a problem with, it's the way the law is administered. It allows any heat-of-the-moment anger or any vindictive, malicious person to damage another person's life.

Dave said...

I've never been a big fan of political interference in the legal system (in any country), but if ever there was a need for the ruler to step in and add some immediate sanity to this situation then this is it!!!

Anonymous said...

Actually similar things are begining to happen in Britland now.

The case of Kevin Hughes for instance. He was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison (and served it!) for allegedly insulting an illegal immigant by telling him what he thought of him after the immigrant threatened him. An off duty police officer sitting at the next table arrested Kevin Hughes for "incitement".

When it came to court the immigrant didn't give evidence because he didn't understand or speak English! How bizzare is that?

samuraisam said...

Read some of the Arabic papers and see how people are praising the result of the court case as an example of justice being served:

"yesssssss, this is very good news, when people say dubai is an open city and we answer yes but there are rules and regulations concerning our religion and culture"

"God forgive walker brothers shyness officials to postpone the laws of tourism, so they know that the United Arab Emirates Arab and a Muslim, but does not allow such acts"

HE said...

I feel like its becoming a "tit for tat" sort of situation.

"No burqas in France and Belgium, well here you go! no appeal, take that!"

"No minarets in Switzerland, ok then, here take this! you deny giving the finger? LIAR!! this guy said you did!"

"Article about Dubai in the U.K., you're bashing us in your media?! BOOM, take that!! you have no right for witnesses!"

I know this is a bit extreme, but I honestly feel like this is what is happening.

LDU said...

Seabee, do you know whether there is a Law Reform Commission providing opinions on such matters?

Seabee said...

Sam, as I keep saying, they're all missing the main point, and a huge point it is. The fact that they have different views and laws on what constitutes public indecency is not the issue. The fact that a law is enforced is not the issue (although arbitrarily enforcing it in one instance out of ten thousand is an issue).

Regardless of the nationality, race, religion, creed, tribe, religion or any other bloody thing, of the defendant, if s/he can be convicted on nothing more than the word of an accuser, if no evidence is presented, the accuser does not appear in court, no witnesses are called, then it's not justice and it's wrong.

It has nothing to do with different cultural values, or foreigners not obeying the laws it's to do with the administration of justice.

Dave I agree, there's a huge and urgent need for an overhaul, not of the laws but of the way the justice system is operating.

There also needs to be consistency. Either change the laws or don't let tens of thousands of unmarried couples share hotel rooms. Round up the prostitutes who are openly roaming the streets of Deira and Bur Dubai and the hotels & clubs and deport them. Close the brothels. Sex outside marriage is illegal so what's the justification for allowing all this?

Enforce the dress codes, which relate to public decency. Dressing inappropriately has been getting more common, and accelerating, the past couple of years but the law is not enforced.

Change what's being allowed or change the laws, one or the other.

Keith it seems to me the UK is going from bad to worse.

LDU there may be one but I don't know of any such body.

samuraisam said...

Seabee: I totally agree; I was just pasting those comments in so people could see what was being said in the Arabic-language press.
I don't think this is the first time questionable things have happened with witnesses (Vince Acors/Michelle Palmer case had some funny witnesses too).

Anonymous said...

Seabee said...

Anon@10.02 Good point. Why are they not in jail?
Sex outside marriage, an unmarried couple staying together, kissing in public.

the real nick said...

Should you find yourself a defendant in a similar situation then there is only one way out: counter sue the other party for defamation.

Anonymous said...

The "counter sue" wont work if the other party is "higher in status" than you.

One should always remember that swearing, overt PDA, flipping the finger is considered a worse crime than driving recklessly or breaking queues.

In fact I would guess that bad driving and breaking queues are the 2 main things to which expats react by swearing and get in trouble.