Law for Juvenile Delinquents in the UAE

The main federal laws that govern justice for juveniles and delinquents in the UAE are the Penal Code 1987, the Criminal Procedure Code 1992, the Law of Evidence 1992, and the Juvenile Delinquents and Vagrants Act 1976, also called Federal Law 9 of 1976. This criminal legislation applies to non-Muslim offenses and most ta’zir (actions that are sinful in Islam and punishments are at the discretion of judges or the state) offenses. Still, it does not apply to hadd (punishments fixed in the Qur’an and hadith for crimes against Islam) offenses, qisas (punishment by retaliation), and diyah offenses (compensation of victims) because they are governed solely by Shari’a law. The Shari’a Courts Act 1996 also applies and claims that juveniles’ crimes shall be subject to the Shari’a courts and states that Sharia punishments shall apply. The UAE Penal Code 1987 gives multiple provisions for the death penalty for several crimes, such as Articles 67, 149, 154, and 332 of the Penal Code. Still, it states that persons aged 7-17 are governed by the Juvenile Delinquents and Vagrants Act, as provided by Article 63. According to article 7 of the Juvenile Delinquency and Vagrants Act, the minimum age of criminal responsibility under criminal law is seven.

The Act mentioned above defines a juvenile in Article 1, a person under the age of 18 at the time of the offense; however, Sharia law states that a person will become liable for Islamic punishments when they reach puberty. Article 9 offers protection for juveniles and states that a juvenile may not be condemned to capital punishment or imprisonment; however, Article 10 gives a solution to the provision and states that in circumstances where it is allowed to condemn a juvenile to a criminal sanction, imprisonment or capital punishment, it should be substituted by detention and rehabilitation for a period that does not exceed ten years. Article 10 (2) further states that if an incriminating act performed by a juvenile is sanctioned by detention, the period should not exceed half the maximum limit that is originally prescribed. 



Article 15 provides for the measures that may be taken in respect of the juvenile, and it includes:

  1. Rebuke of the juvenile, such as scolding and discipline, urges him to behave in good conduct, as defined by Article 16.
  2. Handing the juvenile over to either his parents or tutor and further provides in Article 17 that if none of his guardians can educate him, he shall be handed over to a family member with full capacity to provide for him.
  3. Putting the juvenile under judicial supervision should he be condemned to detention for not less than a year and not exceeding three years. Article 18 further mentions that should a juvenile successfully pass the period under judicial supervision; then it shall be considered if the lawsuit was never filed; however, should the juvenile fail the test period, he shall be put on trial according to the law.
  4. The court may prevent the juvenile from frequenting places if it is proven that these places influence delinquency and vagrancy.
  5. Prohibition of performing a specific work if it is established that these works contribute to delinquency or vagrancy.
  6. Convincing the delinquent to undergo professional training.
  7. Confinement in a treatment asylum, rehabilitation, or reformation institute should the court notice that the delinquency is attributed to a mental disorder. Appeal Number 209 of Judicial Year 18 of 1997 is a case that concerns the rehabilitation of a juvenile in a mental institution, and the court states that release will be conditional depending on the reports submitted by these institutions in accordance with the provisions set in Article 34.
  8. Deportation should the juvenile be a non-citizen, and judgment will be executed within two weeks from the date of its issue.



The legislation provides certain procedures for juveniles. Article 28 states that provisional detention remains at the courts’ discretion in the case where a precautionary measure is needed against the juvenile. The public prosecution may order the detention in one of the education houses that will take care of him for a period of one week unless the court approves its extension. 

Furthermore, to protect the juvenile from the public, the trial will be done in closed chambers, as mentioned in Article 29. It states that no one may attend the juvenile trial except his lawyers, witnesses, tutors, and/or a Ministry of Social Affairs representative. The court may also exempt the juvenile himself from attending the trial in person in cases where hearing the witnesses’ statements without him may deem to be in his interest. 

The case of Appeal Number 115 of the Judicial Year 15 of 1993 supported this ruling. The Court of Cassation indicated that the juvenile in the case mentioned must be held in private as defamation of the nullity ruling for holding the public’s juvenile trial sessions is a cause-related to public order. The provision mentions that all judgments rendered against the juvenile may be appealed except for judgments of deportation, rebuke, or delivering the juvenile to his legal guardian, as declared in Article 32. This provision was upheld in the judgment of the case Appeal Number 853 of 2018 Penal Code of 2019, a case of impermissible stabbing by a minor, and was given a deportation judgment. 

The judgment was legally decided in context to Article 32(1), and the court confirmed that no appeals may be made for the ruling that orders the removal of the juvenile from the country. The case of Appeal Number 521 for the year 2017 Penal for the year 2017 further addresses the question of the reprimand of criminal measures and questions the basis of what is permissible in an appeal and what may not be challenged by Cassation. The case mentioned above explained that closing the way of appeal regarding rulings that deport juveniles is to prevent prolonged trial procedures and the possession of the judgment is the power of the adjudicated order, hence the inadmissibility of cassation appeal.



A juvenile under the age of 7 cannot be subject to criminal proceedings; however, they are to be subjected to the courts’ authority. Sanctions for juveniles over seven but under 16 and have committed criminal offenses are the judges’ discretion; however, if the juvenile is over the age of 16, the judge will rule according to the law. Nevertheless, juveniles will not be subject to capital punishments and cannot be sent to an adult prison if they are under 18. The Penal Code mentioned in Article 10 that in cases where an adult will be subject to imprisonment or the death penalty, a juvenile would face a maximum of 10 years in detention. The retention period should not exceed half the adult period that was set for the crime. The Juvenile Delinquents and Vagrants Act 1976 has put certain provisions for juveniles that explain the measures and procedures in the case of delinquency and provides for remedies against delinquency by detention centers to provide social care and education for the juveniles.