x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Holistic strategy needed to tackle youth crime in UAE

The case of a Kuwaiti teenager tortured to death and the two boys - both teenagers - accused of his murder has shocked both the UAE and Kuwait.

The case of Mubarak Meshaal Al Mubarak has shocked two countries. In Kuwait, where the 19-year old student was from, his family will finally get their wish to see their son buried, after the post-mortem was carried out and his body released this weekend. In the UAE, where Mr Al Mubarak died last month, the case is receiving wide attention.

But as the court case continues, so there is little that can be said definitively. Still, it is now clear that Mr Al Mubarak was tortured so severely that he died of his injuries. The two facing trial are teenagers, just 18 and 19, and apparently had known the deceased young man for their entire lives.

The report into Mr Al Mubarak's death mentions "burn marks and signs of torture" on his body. On Tuesday, police announced they had recovered six minutes of mobile-phone footage allegedly showing the assault.

This case is extraordinary, but there are similar crimes on the record. On this day two years ago, we wrote on these pages about Ali Mohammed Hassan, a 13-year-old Emirati who was stabbed to death in Rashidiyah in Dubai, by two older teenagers.

Two years before that, The National reported on a gang calling themselves "Death Room", who abducted children as young as 12, filmed them being tortured and then extorted money from the victims.

Both of those cases shocked the nation and made people wonder what was happening in these hidden subcultures involving young people. All told, such cases are rare in the UAE, but reports of knife and sword crime have anecdotally confirmed a trend of youth violence.

In these pages, we have advocated a three-pronged strategy to combat youth violence. The first, of course, is law and law enforcement. Those who commit such crimes must know that they will be caught - and the wider community must see justice delivered swiftly.

There is also an important education component, which involves both schools and families. One of the strong bonds of this society is the extended family, which retains the most influence over young people. Finally, youths have to have options and outlets for their energy.

Youth crime of this nature, by boys and young men with their whole lives ahead of them, is always shocking. The senseless nature of these crimes means they can be deterred given the proper diligence.