Explained: Lifetime Imprisonment and Other Punishments for Freedom Violation in the UAE

Posted by Al Rowaad Advocates & Legal Consultants on June 16th, 2022

The United Arab Emirates prescribes tough punishments in the event there is an assault or deprivation on the freedom of a person through means of kidnapping.

The Federal Decree Law No 31 of 2021, called the UAE Penal Code governs the law on crimes and penalties in the UAE. The UAE Penal Code came into force on and from 2 January 2022 and abrogated and repealed the previously existing Federal Law No 3 of 1987.


Under the UAE Penal Code, the act of kidnapping another person is punishable with life imprisonment if any of the conditions as set in Article 395 is met. Life imprisonment will be given if the duration of kidnapping exceeds one month. Life imprisonment may also be imposed if the purpose of the act was for revenge or to rape or commit sexual assault on the victim.

Moreover, if the kidnapping results in the death of the victim, a death penalty will be imposed.

Article 395 of the UAE Penal Code sets out the punishment related to deprivation of freedom of a person and states the following.

Article 395

Any person who kidnaps, arrests, or detains another person, or deprives him of his freedom, by any means, either by himself or through an intermediary, in violation of the law, shall be sentenced to life imprisonment in the following cases:

  • If the act is committed by impersonating a public capacity or pretending to perform or to provide a public service or by making a communication by false identity.
  • If t he act is committed by way of deception or associated with the use of force or threat to kill or to inflict serious harm or with physical or psychological torture.
  • If the act is committed by two or more persons or by a person carrying a weapon.
  • If the duration of the kidnapping, arrest, detention, or deprivation of freedom exceeds one month.
  • If the victim is a female, a minor, an insane, an imbecile, or any person with disabilities.
  • If the purpose of the act is to achieve gain, or for revenge, or to rape the victim, or commit any sexual assault, or to inflict harm to him, or to induce him to commit a crime.
  • If the act is committed against a public official in the course of or by reason of his duty. Death penalty shall be imposed if the act results in the death of the victim.

Any person who acts as an intermediary in the commission of any of the crimes referred to in this Article, and any person who knowingly hides a kidnapped person, shall be liable to the penalty prescribed for the original perpetrator.

Exemption from Punishment

The UAE Penal Code also gives an opportunity to the criminal to avoid the penalties for kidnapping if he reports and leads the authorities to the location of the kidnapped person, identifies the other criminal(s) which leads to the rescue of the kidnapped person.

Article 397 reads as follows.

The criminal shall be exempt from punishment in the crimes set out in the preceding Article if he, spontaneously, reports and leads the judicial or administrative authorities to the location of the kidnapped person, before such place is discovered by the said authorities, and identify the other criminals, when such matter results in the rescue of the kidnapped person.

Parental Child Abduction

Parental child abduction is a criminal offence in the UAE under Article 380 of the UAE Penal Code. Parental child abduction involves either a parent or a grandparent kidnapping the child or grandchild, even if it is done without fraud or coercion. The UAE also criminalizes the refusal of a parent or grandparent to hand the child over to the guardian or custodian pursuant to a court decision. Both these acts are punishable with imprisonment or a fine.

Practically, many parental child abductions are on an international scale where the parent (or the grandparent) removes the child out of the UAE or abducts them into the UAE, without the consent of the guardian or the person with parental responsibility or in violation of a court order restricting the removal of the child.


Child abduction cases are often the result of an ongoing difficult separation between the parents. It is crucial therefore, for the spouses to have an expert family lawyer on board, who is well versed with the local laws of the UAE and can take immediate steps in case any of the above scenarios take place.

URL: https://www.alrowaad.ae/

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Joined: February 3rd, 2021
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