DUBAI // Almost two-thirds of residents back the death penalty and almost three-quarters support execution for murder, a new survey suggests.
The poll, compiled for Al Aan TV’s Nabd al Arab (Arabs’ Pulse) programme by YouGov Siraj, shows that 65 per cent of residents disagree with abolishing the death penalty.
The results are contradictory, of those who said they favoured abolition of the death penalty, some also said they supported the execution of murderers.
Asked to select which of nine crimes, from theft to murder, should be punishable by death, 8 per cent favoured capital punishment for all of them.
Murder and rape drew the strongest responses, at 72 per cent and 60 per cent. Thirteen per cent supported execution for drunk driving, and nearly 18 per cent for sex outside of marriage. Forty-six per cent of the survey respondents said drug smuggling should be punished by death, and 51 per cent said child abuse deserved capital punishment.
Nearly 9 per cent said thieves should get the death penalty. Execution for corruption was supported by 17 per cent, and 12 per cent favoured it for domestic abuse.
The most recent death sentence to be carried out was that of Rashid Al Rashidi, who killed four-year-old Moosa Mukhtiar Ahmed. He was executed by firing squad in February.
Including Al Rashidi, there have been nine executions since 2004.
Ahmed Ibrahim Saif, Chief Justice of the Dubai Criminal Court, said judges were not overusing or underusing capital punishment.
“The law made it mandatory that a panel of three judges agree to give the death penalty, because it’s a person’s life they are determining to end or keep,” he said.
Other judges also expressed their faith in the current system. They said crimes such as domestic violence or child abuse were broadly defined under the law, giving a wide range of discretion for punishment and providing judges with the freedom they need to make an appropriate decision.
“Some people walk to crime, while others, the crime comes to them,” one judge said.
Another judge said he supported amending the law to make capital punishment mandatory for drug trafficking. “Such crimes destroy nations,” he said.
Chief Justice Saif pointed out that there already had been changes in drug laws. “Laws change according to changes among people and community conditions,” he said. For instance, he said, cases of drug use were once tried at misdemeanours courts and punished by a few months in prison.
Now they are referred to courts of first instance, where those convicted can be sentenced to up to four years in prison.
The lawyer Hamid Al Khazraji said the law imposed the death penalty appropriately. Any changes should be governed by the severity of the crime, he said.
“In several cases in which death is the punishment, the court has reduced the sentence to life in light of the evidence presented.
This brings to light the real role of the prosecution, which is to provide a solid case and tangible evidence to the court.”
The first female clerk at Dubai Criminal Court, Bushra Al Dhubai, said heinous crimes merited capital punishment if those convicted were adults. “Executions are rarely carried out on criminals in Dubai, but some crimes strongly deserve the death penalty, like rape,” Ms Al Dhubai said.
Maysoon Baraky, presenter of Nabd al Arab, said that while the survey found a large majority in favour of retaining the death penalty, it also found that “treating prisoners humanely stays a major issue to Arabs across the region”.
The survey polled 151 people and the margin of error was 8 per cent.
Nabd al Arab is on Al Aan TV at 8pm tonight.