Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 July 2019

Drug rehabilitation experts call for dedicated UAE courts for addicts

Specialists claim the move would help free up the judicial system and save the country money long-term

A stock image of Dubai Courts. Photo: AFP
A stock image of Dubai Courts. Photo: AFP

Drug rehabilitation experts have called for dedicated courts to be established across the UAE to handle addiction cases.

Specialists argued creating a separate legal process for drug users would free up a court system already burdened by a significant caseload.

Officials claimed the initiative would benefit addicts by ensuring they were dealt with quickly and efficiently, and received the treatment they need.

A senior judge from the Emirates also backed the proposal, suggesting rehabilitation experts could be appointed to work with the new courts.

“We need special courts dedicated to drug addicts where users have the chance of rehabilitation," said Professor Abdullah Al Ansari, director of community research and awareness at Dubai’s Erada Rehabilitation Centre.

“These courts should be able to summon rehab experts to confirm if an individual has relapsed and decide what the best course of treatment is.”

Like most countries around the world, drug abuse in the Emirates has proved a difficult problem to address effectively.

At a recent three-day forum marking International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, officials in the UAE recognised a new focus was required to tackle the issue.

Senior police officers as well as academics called for a more centralised, coordinated approach to drug addiction.

They said policies should be inclusive of all community members rather than just those directly involved in combating illegal narcotics.

Speaking to The National, a former drug user welcomed the idea of dedicated courts for addicts.

The repeat offenders described the years they had wasted after being sent back to jail for relatively minor possession charges.

Waiting for their court hearings to come up took time, they said, and the prison sentences they received achieved little.

They claimed what was really required was a better understanding from courts of the nature of their addiction, as well as assistance in being placed in rehabilitation programmes.

“My uncle, who was an addict himself, had me hooked on drugs when I was 13 and my family didn’t know what to do,” said Emirati Abu Amal, 29.

“I ended up an addict and was sent to jail many times. I didn’t kill or steal or assault any one; there were no victims to my deeds except myself.”

He claimed the repeated jail terms “broke his heart”, and that at no point was he ever offered the opportunity of a rehabilitation programme.

Now free of drugs, he said: “My goal now is tell people never to blindly trust even family members.”

Dr Hamdy Moselhy, medical director at the Erada centre, also said he supported the idea of dedicated drug addiction courts.

He said he and others believed the system could not only help save lives, but would also save the UAE money.

“I'm not the only one in support of this idea,” he said. “I was part of a team from Erada which drafted a detailed proposal requesting these courts.

“A team from the centre including our legal consultant and a number of rehab experts worked on it and it was submitted to the Supreme Legislative committee in Dubai.

“Numerous international studies have confirmed that 10 dollars are saved [in incarceration and policing costs] for every one dollar spent on rehab.”

Judge Ahmed Ibrahim Saif, the head of Dubai's civil court, also said the proposed initiative appeared to be worth serious consideration.

He also claimed a change in law was required, allowing him the opportunity of sending repeat drug offenders to rehabilitation programmes rather than to prison. Currently, repeat offenders automatically face jail time.

“In order for me to be able to send repeat drug users to a rehabilitation centre instead of jail, I need wider authorities to look again at the law,” he said.

Updated: June 28, 2019 01:14 PM

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