x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Government joins ranks of nations with power to declare martial law

The power allows authorities to implement a broad range of security initiatives, from the use of force to end strikes to the deportation of expatriates.

ABU DHABI // The Government has adopted legislation that gives it the power in times of national crisis to declare martial law. This would allow authorities to implement a broad range of security initiatives, from the use of force to end strikes to the deportation of expatriates. Its adoption is a procedural measure to allow swift action by the Government if an emergency were to break out. It is a strategic contingency that many countries already have in place.

The law addresses man-made and natural disasters, threats to the country and armed attacks or occupation of its territory. It gives security forces additional powers to arrest and detain suspects without charges for longer than the constitutional 90 days. The new law contains a time limit, ensuring such measures cannot remain in force for longer than six months. In order for martial law to be declared, a federal decree from the President is required.

Under martial law, security forces can issue curfews, prohibit public gatherings and end associations or groups by removing their right to operate. The law also gives the Government the right to put restrictions on the media if necessary. The military can conscript eligible Emiratis for service. It allows for special courts to be set up to prosecute violators, with no chance of appeal. These courts can extend beyond the six-month limit of the law's other provisions.

"It is more strategic to develop these laws now than to have to create them when an emergency happens," said Dr Jasim al Shamsey, dean of the UAE College of Law. Dr al Shamsey said no particular threat had led to the creation of the law. "Every country has additional security measures in times of crisis," he said. The federal law was adopted in June 2009 but required a signature from the President to be ratified. It was signed over the weekend.

As conflicts in the region erupt, there is a greater need to have such a law in place, Dr al Shamsey said. "We have Afghanistan, Iran and other countries in the region. But there are also natural disasters. There have to be laws that give the Government more power during times of emergency," he added. myoussef@thenational.ae