Wanted suspects now in Iran could be brought to the UAE to face justice within months under a new extradition treaty. The agreement, nearly three years in the making, is one of five bilateral treaties signed by the Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, and his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, on Tuesday night in Tehran. The other deals cover criminal prosecution assistance and civil and commercial co-operation.
Of the UAE's 220 outstanding Interpol arrest warrants, 22 are for Iranians, most of whom are wanted in connection with fraud cases. Although the full text of the treaty has not been released, a Ministry of Justice spokesman confirmed that neither country would extradite its own nationals. If requested, however, they would be compelled to try their own nationals for offences against the law in both countries.
According to the Iranian Embassy official, there are 50 Iranians in Al Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi Corrections and Prisons Authority declined to verify the numbers. The Justice Ministry spokesman said the treaty was not related to any specific cases. "This is a normal procedure that we are trying to sign extradition treaties with as many countries as we can," said the spokesman, who is in Tehran with the UAE delegation.
"Our goal is to go after the criminals wherever they are. Not only in Iran but anywhere. We don't want to leave any place for them to hide." It was not known exactly when the treaty will come into force. "It could still be months," the spokesman said. "There is still some protocol by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before the treaty could be implemented, but the most significant part has been completed."
The Iranian Embassy official confirmed that an extradition treaty was on the agenda when the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, visited the UAE in May 2007. It is the latest in a series of bilateral extradition deals to be signed by the UAE. More than 20 such agreements are now in place, including a 2008 deal with Britain under which the first suspect was extradited to the UK on murder charges in September.
In October, a deal was agreed with Russia, although this is not expected to be ratified until next year. Speaking at the final session of the first meeting of the Emirati-Iranian joint ministerial committee in Tehran, Sheikh Abdullah praised relations between the two countries as "ancient" and "historic" and based on mutual respect and good neighbourliness. "The rapid events sweeping the world at present and overshadowing the region require more consultations and co-ordination," he said. "Iran is a fully fledged trade partner with the UAE."
He stressed the importance of reinforcing deals between the two countries on transport, and on combating drugs and crime. There are estimated to be as many as 400,000 Iranians living in the UAE. According to the Iranian Embassy, around one million Iranians pass through the UAE each year. firstname.lastname@example.org * With additional reporting by Zahra Hankir