x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Good outcome to the assault incident but lacking a lesson

The case over the road-rage incident that went viral on YouTube has been settled amicably, but some questions remain.

Two weeks ago, video footage of a Dubai road-rage incident went viral on YouTube, becoming the focus of international attention. It became a major talking point here in the UAE, with a variety of opinions expressed online and in the mainstream media about the assault and how to deal with it.

The footage shows an Emirati man in a kandura repeatedly beating an Indian van driver with his agal and then punching him. This continues for some time until another man steps in to separate them and calm matters down.

Dubai Police subsequently took action, charging the Emirati man with assault and the man who uploaded the video with defamation as the act was banned by the UAE laws. Again, opinions were divided over the rights and wrongs of the police action and the actions of the men involved.

Many people were outraged at the apparent severity of the attack and were concerned about the impression the video might leave of Emiratis in general. Others asked whether there might have been more to the incident than caught the eye; perhaps, they asked, something had happened to elicit the attack before the camera was filming.

Parallel to this was the debate over the legalities of filming such an incident and posting it online - rather than handing it directly to the authorities - and the question of its admissibility in a court of law.

But the case did not get to court. As The National reported yesterday, all charges have been dropped - both against the Emirati man (who has, nevertheless, lost his job) and the man who took the video. Dubai's attorney general, Essam Al Humaidan, said the authorities had acted to "preserve each party's rights".

The fact that the situation has been resolved quickly and amicably ought to be acknowledged as a positive step in a murky sequence of events. It has provided the best short-term outcome from a difficult and highly charged situation.

But in bypassing the courts, this decision leaves many questions about the case unanswered and provides little guidance for future incidents. Most important, it does not address the argument that any allegation of a criminal offence, such as assault, be heard within the court system. While the two sides might have been reconciled, the lessons from the incident remain unclear.