So you’ve decided to make the move to the UAE. The tax-free salaries, year-round sunshine, and luxury lifestyle are calling your name. As an expat, there are a few legal issues you should understand before packing your bags, chief among them the UAE’s extradition policies. The UAE does not have a formal extradition treaty with the US, UK or EU, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely off the hook if accused of a crime back home. The UAE maintains the right to extradite individuals at its own discretion. While rare, it has happened. The key is staying on the right side of the law, both in the UAE and anywhere else you may travel. Keep your nose clean, avoid legal trouble, and you should have nothing to worry about. But if the unthinkable does happen, know your rights and get a good lawyer. The UAE may be an expat haven, but you’re still not above the law.
What Is Extradition and How Does It Work in the UAE?
Have you ever wondered what extradition means and how it works in the UAE?
It is the formal process of extraditing a person from one country to another country for prosecution or punishment. In the UAE, it is subject to national law and treaties with other countries. The UAE has its extradition treaties with more than 50 countries including the US, UK, India, Pakistan and Egypt. These treaties allow the UAE government to deport foreign nationals who have been accused or convicted of a criminal offense to their home country. In order to be extradited from the UAE, you must meet several criteria. First, the offense must be punishable in both the UAE and the requesting state. Second, the crime must not have a political character. Finally, the requesting country must provide important details of the charge or conviction.
In order to be extradited from the UAE, you must meet several criteria.
First, the offense must be punishable in both the UAE and the requesting state.
Second, the crime must not have a political character.
Finally, the requesting country must provide important details of the charge or conviction. If the application is granted, the UAE authorities will arrest the person and detain him pending deportation.
This process usually takes 6 to 18 months. There are limited reasons to challenge an extradition request, such as fear of political persecution or cruel punishment in the requesting country. As an immigrant, it is important to be aware of extradition laws in case charges are filed abroad. The best way to avoid extradition is not to commit a crime, especially not in your own country! For minor crimes, some expats can settle legal matters abroad without having to return home, but extradition is usually necessary for serious crimes. In such a difficult situation, knowing the law and your rights can calm your fears. Ultimately, however, the UAE values its diplomatic and legal relations with other countries. So if your home country requests your return through the
appropriate legal channels, the UAE is likely to honour that request.
Notable Extradition Cases Involving the UAE
The UAE has been involved in some high-profile extradition cases over the years. Two of the most well-known involve Russian nationals.
In 2017, Leonid Zypkin, a Russian businessman, was extradited from the UAE to Russia to face fraud charges. Zypkin had been living in Dubai for over 10 years when Interpol issued a Red Notice for his arrest. He was detained, and after a lengthy legal battle, extradited to Moscow.
More recently, in 2021, Vitali Protasevich and his girlfriend were detained when their Ryanair flight was forced to land in Belarus. Protasevich, a Belarusian journalist and activist who opposes President Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime, had been living in exile in Lithuania. Belarusian authorities claimed there was a bomb threat that forced the plane to land, but it was largely seen as a ruse to arrest the dissident.
The situations highlight some of the risks of extradition for expats in the UAE:
- Red Notices: If Interpol issues a Red Notice for your arrest, the UAE may detain and extradite you even if you’ve lived in the country for years.
- Politics: Extradition requests can be politically motivated. Even if you’ve been granted asylum or are a political dissident, you may be at risk of extradition to your home country.
- Lengthy process: Fighting Extradition in the UAE court system can take months or even years, and there’s no guarantee of success. Many expats end up being extradited.
The takeaway is that if you’re wanted for a serious criminal offense or have political enemies in your home country, the UAE may not be the safest haven. While the Emirates value expat contributions, extradition law ultimately favors cooperation with foreign governments and law enforcement. For some, that’s an uncomfortable reality that’s important to understand.
Extradition Treaties Between the UAE and Other Countries
The UAE has extradition treaties with over 40 countries, allowing for the transfer of suspected or convicted criminals from one country to another. As an expat living in the UAE, it’s important to understand how these treaties could affect you.
Extradition with Western Countries
The UAE has extradition treaties with the United States, UK, Canada, Australia, and countries in Western Europe. If you’re wanted for a crime in one of these countries, the UAE may extradite you to face charges. The UAE will typically only extradite individuals for serious offenses, such as murder, rape, terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, or fraud. Lesser crimes are usually not grounds for extradition.
Extradition with Neighboring Countries
The UAE also has extradition treaties with Middle Eastern countries like Egypt, Jordan, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. Again, only individuals accused or convicted of severe criminal offenses in these countries are likely to be extradited from the UAE.
Limited Protection as a Foreign National
While foreign nationals in the UAE do have certain legal protections, the government maintains the right to deport immigrants or extradite them to other countries under the proper circumstances. If you’re concerned about facing charges in your home country or elsewhere, it may be best to avoid traveling to or taking up residency in the UAE. The UAE values its diplomatic and economic relationships with Western allies very highly, so requests for extradition from these countries are typically honoured.
In summary, the possibility of extradition is something all expats in the UAE should be aware of, especially if you’re a citizen of a country with which the UAE has an extradition treaty. While the risk may be low for most law-abiding residents, you never know when an unsettled legal matter might come back to haunt you from afar. It’s best to handle any outstanding warrants, charges or lawsuits before moving to the UAE whenever possible.
Protections and Rights for Individuals Facing Extradition from the UAE
As an expat living in the UAE, it’s important to understand your rights if you find yourself facing extradition. The UAE has extradition treaties with over 40 countries, but there are still some protections in place.
Protections from Unfair Extradition
The UAE constitution prohibits the extradition of individuals for political or military offenses. The UAE also cannot extradite someone who faces potential discrimination, such as due to their race, religion, or nationality. Individuals cannot be extradited for an act that is punishable in the requesting country but not criminalized in the UAE.
The UAE is also party to several international treaties that aim to prevent human rights violations, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. If you believe you may face human rights abuses, torture or the death penalty in the requesting country, you may appeal to the UAE government. Provide as much evidence as possible to support your claims.
Right to Legal Counsel
If arrested for extradition, you have the right to contact a lawyer. Legal counsel can help determine if the extradition request meets the requirements of the relevant treaty and file appeals on your behalf. They can also work to negotiate alternatives to extradition, such as facing charges in the UAE instead or agreeing to voluntary deportation.
Appealing an Extradition Order
You have the right to appeal an extradition order within 30 days of it being issued. Appeals are heard by the UAE Federal Supreme Court. Grounds for appeal include errors in due process, lack of dual criminality, or potential human rights violations in the requesting country. While the appeal process can take months or even years, the court may issue a stay of extradition during this time.
Knowing your rights and options can help reduce anxiety if facing possible extradition from the UAE. With legal counsel by your side advocating on your behalf, you have the best chance of a fair outcome and avoiding unlawful removal from the country.
How Expats in the UAE Can Avoid Extradition
As an expat living in the UAE, it’s important to understand extradition law and how to avoid potential legal issues. The UAE has extradition treaties with over 40 countries, meaning if you’re wanted for a crime in your home country, you could be sent back to face charges. However, there are a few steps you can take to lower the risk of extradition.
Avoid criminal activity
The most obvious way to steer clear of extradition is not to engage in any criminal behaviour, either in the UAE or abroad. Don’t commit any crimes, fraud, or other illegal acts that could warrant legal action.
Don’t travel to countries with extradition treaties
Be cautious when traveling to countries that have formal extradition agreements with the UAE. Your home country may issue a warrant for your arrest, then request the UAE government deport you so you can face charges. It’s best to avoid non-essential travel to these countries altogether.
Hire an experienced lawyer
If you find yourself facing potential extradition, hire a lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney who specializes in extradition and international law can review your case, determine if extradition is actually lawful or warranted, and fight it in court on your behalf.
For long-term expats, naturalizing and becoming a UAE citizen is one way to avoid extradition. Once you have Emirati citizenship, the UAE cannot extradite you to another country. However, the UAE naturalization process is very difficult, with many restrictions. It may not be an option for most expats.
By following these guidelines, you can feel more at ease living and working in the UAE long-term without fear of unlawful extradition. However, if legal issues do arise, be sure to connect with an experienced attorney right away regarding your rights and options under UAE law.
In conclusion, as an expat in the UAE, knowledge of extradition laws and their implications is essential. While extradition is not a common concern, it’s wise to stay informed and cautious. Avoid legal troubles, especially in your home country, to reduce the risk of extradition.
If you ever find yourself facing potential extradition, remember to hire an experienced lawyer who specializes in international law. They can provide invaluable guidance, assess the legality of the extradition request, and represent your interests in court.
For some long-term expats, naturalization might be an option to secure immunity from extradition, but it’s a complex and restrictive process. Still, it’s worth considering if you plan to reside in the UAE indefinitely. Overall, by following these guidelines and staying vigilant, you can enjoy the benefits of expat life in the UAE without the looming fear of unlawful extradition. Legal matters are best dealt with proactively, ensuring your rights are protected in all circumstances. Stay informed and prepared to make the most of your expat experience in the UAE.