“There is no excuse for perjury – never, never, never. There is truth, and the truth demands respect.”
– Kenneth Starr
Perjury can be defined as the intentional act of lying, swearing, withholding the truth, giving false testimony under oath, or any deception in the legal system. Taking depositions under oath has been a staple in both traditional and modern standard methods. It provides specific provisions for undertaking testimony under oath and having penalties for giving false testimonies such as imprisonment, prosecution, or even impeachment. For example, Islamic Shari’a Law heavily depends on the affidavits offered under oath to convict criminals. Furthermore, the teaching of the Qur’an provides injections that prevent making fraudulent testimonies under oath and lays out specific penalties when such an act is performed.
For a person to be guilty of perjury, the accused should have criminal intent – the accused that makes the false statement under oath must be aware that he is acting in deception, such as he knows he is lying or that he does not believe that the statement is true. In many jurisdictions around the world, proof of perjury is usually required. The law usually imposes special requirements for it, such as the person cannot be charged with perjury if there is only the testimony of one witness alone.
For an individual to get charged with perjury, the person that filed a claim must prove:
Federal Law Number 3 of 1987 or more commonly called The UAE Penal Code, contains multiple provisions regarding the crimes that affect the UAE justice system, such as false testimonies, perjury, and failing to testify.
Under Article 253 of the Penal Code, any person who provides false testimonies before any authorized judicial authority shall be sentenced to three (3) months of detention. This penalty includes withholding of information, denial of truth, or omitting from providing any relevant facts to an investigation of the case regardless of whether the witness has testified or not. The provision has further stipulated that should make a witness commit perjury during an investigation of a felony; then the witness will be sentenced to term imprisonment. Additionally, if that false testimony a witness has given leads to the death sentence or life imprisonment, the witness shall be subject to the same penalty.
The Penal Code has also provided exemptions from the penalty acquired from perjury and the law is laid out in Article 254 and 255. 254(a) mentions that if a witness who commits perjury retract his false testimony before the investigation is closed or before he is denounced, then he shall be exempt from any penalty. Similarly, Article 255 states that a witness who told the truth shall be subject to truncation of his honor and freedom. It also states that in the process of the witness testifying the truth, he shall also exempt his family from penalties – spouse, brothers, sisters, in-laws etc. However, 255 also stipulates that if a witness’s perjury has subjected another person to legal prosecution or any judgment, then the witness will be sentenced to a detention period of six (6) months minimum.
Article 257 provided a provision regarding judicial authorities that states that any figure of authority that commits perjury or any untrue testimony shall be sentenced to at least one (1) year retention period, and will be prohibited from the practice of his profession henceforth. If the judicial authority commits perjury in a felony case, that authority will be sentenced to term imprisonment. This provision is extended to translators who are found to deliberately give false translations in either a criminal or civil case. Both the translator and the judicial authority shall be within the scope of 255 and the provision shall apply.
The scope of the Penal Code Article 257 was amended by Federal Law Number 7 of 2016, and this amendment introduced criminal liabilities for arbitrators and experts, as well as translators who issue a decision that is false, misleading, or untrue. This new law has stated that if they go against their duty of honesty when issuing a decision, or filing a report, they shall be subject to temporary imprisonment, and according to Article 63 of the Penal Code, that term of imprisonment could be between three (3) to at least fifteen (15) years.
Three people in the UAE were found guilty of perjury due to the signing of a false official document that stated that the woman had not remarried after obtaining a divorce. The woman convinced three witnesses that the statement was true, hence she has aided them in committing perjury. The witnesses are subject to criminal prosecution, which may lead to up to ten (10) year prison sentences.