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Cybercrime New Amendment Law in the UAE

The President of UAE passed a law amendment number 2 of 2018 on UAE Cybercrime law to amend the sanctions under articles 26, 28 and 42 of the said law (“Cybercrime New Amendment”).

The Cybercrime New Amendment was published on August 13, 2018 and increases the range of imposed sanctions against violators. It also introduces new measures, such as probation and restriction on using electronic mediums, obligatory deportation, among other hefty sanctions.

The Cybercrime New Amendment elaborates on serious electronic crimes incidents that can potentially undermine the public safety, facilitate heat, promote or support terrorism activities and/or organizations. In fact, the existing Cybercrime Law which was enacted in 2012 included major sanctions but our reading of this Amendment intends to deal with the negative effect of misusing online platforms, such as website or social media accounts, on national security, social stability and harmony between people who come from different backgrounds, i.e. color, race, religion and ethnicity livening in the local communities.

It is known that the UAE enjoys various strengths, such as diversity, tolerance and security that make the country within the top ranked societies in the world. The UAE government and law enforcement authorities show less tolerance against any attempt by any entity, individuals or organizations, to destabilize or spread destructive contents, news, heat with using electronic means. The Cybercrime New Amendment addresses these issues in more detail and introduced the compatible sanctions against such misconducts or crimes. For instance, online parody on some sensitive symbols, such as posting improper cartoons on social media accounts, that can jeopardize the national security and higher interest of the UAE will also be subject to criminal prosecution and the newly introduced sanctions that can reach to multi-millions fine and imprisonment.

The UAE maintains a high standard of respect, tolerance and acceptance for people from all cultures and backgrounds. With more than 180 different nationalities living in the UAE, the country built a balanced approach to sustain stability and acceptance. According to the Cybercrime New Amendment, any electronic conduct to misuse or attempt to undermine this principle may result to impose 1 Million AED penalty and temporary imprisonment against violator. This will include sanctions against any production, publication, or promotion of parody content or normal offensive cartons against public orders or law enforcement agencies, judicial institutes and homeland security interest.

As for the enforcement of this law, we do not foresee any technical obstacle for the Police department or Intelligence personnel to prosecute or advance such crimes before the public prosecutors and competent courts. With the advanced technology tools and newly introduced artificial intelligence era in the UAE, the law enforcement authorities are being empowered with advanced technology tools to cope with such attempts, actions or conducts by those who deliberately violate the extended scope of protection stipulated in the new amendment of Cybercrime law. For instance, Officials are capable nowadays, and more than anytime before, to immediately spot and find any entity involved in eavesdropping or receiving or intervened information or messages sent via the internet by using any electronic or high-tech means. Repetitive accessing of such platforms, websites, social media accounts for the purpose of surfing or using their online services can potentially expose the users to fall within the Cybercrime New Amendment.

According to the Cybercrime New Amendment, it is important for the public and residents in the UAE to become aware that organizations use cyber to promote explicitly offensive or dangerous ideas, promote certain illegal activities, setup website(s) to publish information or materials that relate to terrorism organization or its members or activities are going to face sanctions that can reach up to 25 years imprisonment sentence in addition to hefty statutory fines. In addition, the misuse of cyber means to commit financial crimes, such as crimes related to credit cards, identity theft, bank accounts or any other payment instruments information, will fall within those sanctions which will add more stability, security and protection for public interest.

Finally, it is noteworthy mentioning that at the discretion of competent court, the Cybercrime New Amendment confirms a discretionary power for judges to alternate statutory penalties with administrative measures. For instance, the judges, instead of imposing the statutory fines, can refer convicted persons for rehabilitation, monitoring and to remain under electronic custody and restriction for a discretionary period of time that the court may find suitable depending on the circumstances of the case. This probationary measure gives the judges an authority to exempt special cases where the circumstances of crime does not require imposing such penalties. We anticipate that this power will be exercised in cases that relate to youths, suspects who require more education or awareness or those who are misled or have been improperly influenced to breach the cybercrime law or involved with such conducts among others. Nevertheless, the judges will not be able to exercise this discretionary alternative measure when suspects have criminal records for same crime, i.e. cases of repetition of violation.

For any question in relation to Cybercrime laws and regulations, please feel free to contact Munir Suboh at Munir.suboh@bsabh.com
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