x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

New court 'will speed up action'

Experts believe the dedicated court will also provide safe environment to the victims, whose cases can take up to two years to wind through the system due to their complexity.

DUBAI // The new dedicated human trafficking court in Dubai will not only speed up cases but also provide an environment in which victims feel safe to give evidence, experts said yesterday.

In the four years since the introduction of human-trafficking law some of the often complex cases have lingered in the court system.

Dr Saeed al Ghufli, the coordinator of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, said the new court in Dubai could "add value" to anti-trafficking efforts.

"The committee has dealt with the problem of cases that take a bit long," he said yesterday. "We are encouraging the courts and the public prosecution to speed up the human-trafficking cases."

Although he stressed that cases should be as swift as possible, Dr al Ghufli said they should also not be rushed in a way that would undermine the judicial process or harm the victims.

"We encourage a speed-up of the process, but only when it will not have a negative impact on the rights of the victims," he said. "They need to feel confident and ready for the case."

While welcoming the idea of a specialised court, Dr al Ghufli also said the committee, established in 2007, does not interfere with the judicial process.

"We were happy with this initiative," Dr al Ghufli said. "But we believe in judicial independence, so how each court system wants to deal with it is up to them."

During the investigations, and while the cases are being heard, many trafficking victims are cared for at the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children.

Ewaa Shelter in Abu Dhabi is the only other shelter where victims are provided with aid and rehabilitation, and from where they are generally repatriated to their home countries.

Dr Azhar Abuali, the Dubai Foundation's director of care and rehabilitation, said a separate trafficking court was something her organisation had advocated.

"This will have a significant impact in the healing process and help victims when they are testifying," she said. "Ultimately they want justice and it takes a lot of strength to face the perpetrator in court, to stand up and tell your story in all honesty. This court could give them the strength to do that."

That the judge will be specialised in presiding over trafficking cases will help to create an environment more conducive to protecting victims' rights, while ensuring a fair trial, Dr Abuali said.

"We are very excited and believe this is a positive accomplishment," she said. "At the end, what matters is protecting the victims' rights and serving justice."

Last year the Dubai Foundation provided shelter for 33 trafficking victims, including women in their thirties and girls as young as 12.

The Ewaa Shelter cared for at least 38 trafficking victims, most of whom were forced into prostitution.

Ewaa is expected to open two more shelters soon in Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah.