Monday, March 29, 2010

Problems with the law

Today there's another story in the UK press about a Brit falling foul of the law here, in that fine example of serious, quality journalism, The Sun tabloid.

It's an opinion-forming paper, with eight million readers.

Like previous similar reports it's a sensationalist story that misses the real underlying problem.

It's that underlying problem that needs to be highlighted and discussed.

The story is about Simon Andrews, and it's headlined: "Dubai Brit faces 6 months in jail for giving finger"

It goes on to tell its readers that Simon also faces deportation and that: "The Sun has broken a string of exclusives involving Brits falling foul of Dubai's draconian Islamic laws"

It quotes 'a British source as saying: "Police in Dubai appear ready and eager to arrest and imprison any Westerner for the slightest infringement of their medieval code."

'Medieval', 'draconian Islamic'. Let's get something out of the way first, before I move on to the real underlying problem.

Different cultures view many things differently.

In many societies a personal insult is considered trivial, the law reflects that and there's no punishment under the law. (Having said that, in those places if you insult the wrong person you may well be physically attacked, stabbed, shot).

In this part of the world society takes a personal insult very, very seriously. So seriously that it's a criminal offence which can lead to jail, and deportation for foreigners. Not 'medieval, draconian Islamic' but a reflection of the society's take on personal insults.

As always, it's a case of needing to understand the culture of the place you're in and acting accordingly.

Having got that out of the way, the real problem in this case is something I've posted about several times before. In concentrating on the charge The Sun is missing it, as they and many others have with previous stories. The real problem is the way the legal system works. Not the charge, the way the system works.

This case is another example of an unsubstantiated accusation. One person's word against another's. There is no evidence, there are no witnesses.

It surely must be wrong that a case can even be brought on that basis.

And it's another example of the, to me, astonishing fact that the accuser hasn't bothered to turn up in court. This happens time and time again, cases adjourned because witnesses, accusers, defendants simply don't bother to attend the hearings.

An Iraqi man claims that Simon lost his temper and raised his finger.

Simon denies it.

A 'court source' is quoted as saying: "Mr Andrews says the offensive gesture never happened. The Iraqi has never appeared in court to testify against him and there are no witnesses."

No witnesses, the accuser hasn't bothered to attend court to press his claim. Yet it's dragged on for eight months, during which time Simon has been barred from leaving the country. A friend surrendered his own passport as a surety, and that's also been in police hands for the eight months.

How can someone be charged on an unsubstantiated accusation, and punished even before the case has been heard by a ban on travelling? Is that justice?

And why is it still going on after eight months? If the accuser can't be bothered to put his case, the case should be dismissed. How on earth is justice served by adjourning the case?

What happens if the accuser never turns up, does Simon have to stay here forever with the case being endlessly adjourned?

These are the problems with the system that the sensationalist stories don't bother to highlight.

One, that a person can be arrested, charged (and barred from travelling before the case is heard) and found guilty on nothing more than the word of an accuser.

Two, that cases are endlessly adjourned because people don't bother to attend court. Such cases should be dismissed.

Dubai is an ultra-modern, international city state with ambitions to be a world player. The way the legal system works needs to catch up. Urgently.

The latest blow to Dubai's tourism appears in The Sun here.

Other recent examples of the underlying problem with the system are posted here.


Anonymous said...

This can lead to a situation where someone can tell you to do something or "else I will complain you showed me the finger"

Seabee said...

Anon@12.15, yes it gives free rein to malicious people, they don't have to prove their accusation.

You don't like someone, you want to get rid of an employee, you have a rival for someone's affection? Easy, accuse them of insulting you and have them deported!

eric blair said...

draconian: rigorous; unusually severe or cruel (source: if that isn't an accurate assessment, i don't know what is. moreover, outdated and medieval are also quite congruent. you seem to have contradicted yourself sir.

Anonymous said...

Sad situation... Where on one hand the world is getting more and more modern , these guys seem to be going backward.

Doesn't Islam also say that they need witness to prove that this incident actually occured.
This what one of the islamic sites says about witnesses: “The onus to provide evidence falls on the one who makes a claim, and the one who denies (the same) can absolve himself or herself by making a solemn oath to the contrary.”

Let's talk sense here!

"O mankind! Behold, We have created you male and female and have made you nations and tribes only so that you may know one another. Truly, the best of you in the sight of God are those who are best in conduct." (The Holy Qur'an, 49:13)

"Of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the variety of your languages and colours." (The Holy Qur'an, 30:22)

"Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses for God, even against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, whether rich or poor - God is a better protector to both. So do not follow your desires, lest you avoid justice. And if you distort your witness, or refuse to give it, truly, God is Well Aware of everything you do." (The Holy Qur'an, 4:135)

"Stand out firmly for God and be just witnesses, and do not let the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just, that is nearer to piety, and fear God. Verily, God is Well Aware of everything you do." (The Holy Qur'an, 5:8)

"Judge between men in truth, and do not follow your own desire for it will mislead you from God's path." (The Holy Qur'an, 38:26)

May JUSTICE PREVAIL!!!!!!!!!!Inshahallah

Neil Roberts said...

I have heard of a case in Abu Dhabi where a school boy claimed all sorts of insulting things about a girl because she spurned his unwanted advances. Her parents were forced to ship her on the first plane back to the UK before charges were brought.

There is no justice........

CG said...

What a disgusting place to be....perhaps all the Brits should leave (after all, they are the only ones that seem to get in trouble, or in the press).

Anonymous said...

Look on the bright side. It might mean fewer Sun readers travel to Dubai, which can only be a good thing.

Neil Roberts said...

Agreed Anon@5:33 ! I think they prefer Magaluf anyway!

Seabee said...

EB I think you've missed both what the comments were about and my point. They're two different things, not a contradiction.

The medieval, draconian comments were that the law makes a personal insult a criminal offence. As it's simply a reflection of the society's views I have no problem with that law.

As I went to some lengths to explain, what I have a problem with is the way the system works.

Anonymous said...

It is ironic that the Judiciary are still wasting time & money by entertaining the whole charge. Firstly there is no element of witnesses. It's a he said, she said syndrome. Secondly, the accuser has absolutely no respect for the Courts as he hasn't bothered to turn up and has in effect given the Courts the middle finger. So if anyone wants to give the Courts a middle finger message. Make and allegation against someone and just don't turn up.This is more respectful than actually swearing at someone! Just swear at the Courts.

Way to go Dubai.

Doug said...

Talking of the judiciary, does anyone know if there was any sort of satisfactory conclusion to that appeal to extend the sentences for the two Hep+ Emirati guys who raped that French boy?

eric blair said...

Ok, but my point is that they way the system works may itself be a reflection of the values of the society. The "divine right of kings" mentality so popular in the gulf cares little for due process, human rights, etc. These two things are not unrelated.