Drug trafficking is a global issue that knows no borders, affecting countries around the world, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE has a no –tolerance policy when it comes to drug trafficking. The Federal Law no. 14 of 1995 on ‘the control of narcotics and psychotropic substances and its amendments commonly referred to as the ‘Drug law’ criminalizes the production, import, export, transport, buying, selling, storing and possessing of narcotic and psychotropic substances in the UAE.
As a country with a reputation for strict laws and regulations, the UAE faces the dual responsibility of preserving its image as a safe and secure destination while confronting the persistent threat of drug smuggling. According to UAE’s Federal Law No. 14 of 1995 (Narcotic and Psychotropic Law) imposes severe penalties on anyone found guilty of importing, exporting, transporting, consuming, possessing, or storing narcotic drugs and other prohibited substances.
The federal law categorizes drugs into two groups, including;
- Narcotic drugs, including cannabis or marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methadone, opium, and nicomorphine.
- Psychotropic substances, including aminorex, butalbital, ethinamate, and barbital.
Pursuant to Article 39 of the UAE drug law, ‘Whoever abuses in any manner, possesses with the intention of abuse or personally uses in the circumstances other than those authorized any narcotic or psychotropic substances set forth in schedules 1, 2, 4 and 5 enclosed herewith shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a period of two years at least.
The court may, in addition to the said penalty, impose a fine amounting to ten thousand Dirhams at least. When the narcotic or psychotropic substances are classified under schedule 3 ,6, 7 or 8 of the UAE drugs laws then pursuant to Article 40, the punishment could include imprisonment of 6 months to two years along with the fine of up to 10,000 dirhams.
Moreover, Article 40(1) of the UAE drugs law state that, ‘Whoever abuses in any manner, possesses with the intention of abuse or personally uses in circumstances other than those authorized any narcotic or psychotropic substance provided for in schedules 3, 6, 7 and 8 enclosed herewith shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a period of six months at least and two years at most. The court may, in addition to the said penalty, impose a fine amounting to ten thousand Dirhams at least’.
While penalties for drug abuse include specific jail sentences and fines depending on the type of drug, the United Arab Emirates has amended its laws to establish an Addiction Treatment Unit. The Unit is like a rehabilitation center where the government offers to assist accused drug addicts on their recovery journey and social reintegration. However, referral and admission to the Unit are voluntary.
Government Initiatives to Tackle Drug Trafficking:
The UAE government has recognized the significance of addressing drug trafficking and has implemented several measures to combat this problem effectively. Firstly, the nation has stringent drug laws that include severe penalties for offenders. These laws aim to deter potential traffickers and serve as a warning to those contemplating engaging in illicit drug activities. However, human rights organizations have raised concerns about the harshness of these penalties and their potential impact on vulnerable populations.
Secondly, the UAE has bolstered its law enforcement efforts to detect and interdict drug shipments. Customs and police authorities are equipped with state-of-the-art technology to identify and apprehend drug traffickers. Collaborative efforts between UAE law enforcement agencies and international partners have led to several successful drug seizures, disrupting drug networks and hindering their operations. Furthermore, the UAE has invested significantly in drug rehabilitation and prevention programs.
Understanding that drug abuse is a public health concern, the government provides support and treatment for drug addicts, focusing on their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Additionally, preventive initiatives are designed to raise awareness about the dangers of drug use and provide education to young people and communities.
Overall, Drug trafficking remains a significant challenge for the UAE, given its strategic location and economic prosperity. The UAE government’s commitment to combat drug trafficking through stringent laws, robust law enforcement efforts, and investment in rehabilitation and prevention programs showcases its determination to address the issue.
However, continuous vigilance, international cooperation, and a balanced approach that addresses both the supply and demand sides of the drug trade are essential to confront drug trafficking effectively and safeguard the nation’s well-being and security. With these efforts in place, the UAE can continue to reinforce its reputation as a safe and secure destination for residents and visitors alike.