On March 30, 2022, the Federal First Instance Criminal Court of Abu Dhabi sentenced Fida Kiwan, an Israeli citizen, to death after finding her guilty of trafficking illegal narcotics. (Case No. 690 of 2021.) The defendant is the first Israeli citizen to be convicted of a criminal offense by an Emirati court. According to news reports, Kiwan was arrested on March 17, 2021, with half a kilogram of cocaine. Israeli citizens have been allowed to travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since a normalization agreement between the two countries was signed in August 2020.
Kiwan, who owns a photography studio, had reportedly travelled to the Emirate of Dubai in the UAE for work and lived in an apartment arranged for her in advance. A week after her arrival, UAE authorities conducted a search of the apartment and discovered a large quantity of drugs. Kiwan claims that the illegal narcotics do not belong to her.
The two countries do not have an extradition agreement.
Federal First Instance Criminal Court
In accordance with Law No. 8 of 1983, a Federal First Instance Criminal Court is located in the capital of the union, Abu Dhabi. (Law No. 8 of 1983, art. 11.) The court’s panel is composed of three judges — a presiding judge and two other judges.
Capital Punishment for Trafficking Illegal Narcotics
Article 48 of Law No. 14 of 1995 punishes the possession of illegal narcotics with the intent of trafficking them with the death penalty.
Law No. 35 of 1992 on Criminal Procedure, as amended, requires that death sentences be issued unanimously by the judges of the criminal court reviewing the case. (Law No. 35 of 1992 on Criminal Procedure, art. 218.) Additionally, persons accused of a felony punishable by a death sentence must have a lawyer to defend them during the trial. If the accused persons do not have a defense attorney, the court must appoint an attorney for them. (Art. 4.)
Appealing the Verdict of the First Instance Criminal Court
Death sentences are automatically appealed by law. The convicted person does not need to file an appeal. (Art. 230.) All court decisions imposing the death sentence must be automatically forwarded to the Court of Cassation for review. The clerk’s office of the court that rendered the death sentence must transmit the case file to the clerk’s office of the Court of Cassation within three days of the issuance date. (Art. 253.)The Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation renders its decision after hearing the statement of the public prosecution and the defendant. If the Court of Cassation accepts the petition of appeal filed by the defendant, it orders the cancellation of the verdict of the lower court and declares the defendant not guilty. The Court of Cassation also has the power to refer the case to the lower court that rendered the verdict and order that the case be examined before a criminal court composed of different judges than the ones who rendered the first verdict. (Art. 261.)