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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 23 January 2019

Rape victims should show faith in UAE legal system

Criminal lawyers tell victims of rape and sexual assault not to fear the police and judicial system.

In this series:

Call for better support for UAE rape victims

UAE schools ‘need to teach meaning of consent’

‘Safe environment first’ say UK and US rape guidelines

ABU DHABI // Lawyers say victims of sexual assault should have more faith in the judicial system and feel safe reporting the crime.

But legal reform is needed to make it less confronting for them to report such sensitive cases, according to Dr Habib Al Mulla, a prominent Emirati lawyer with three decades’ experience.

“I think it goes both ways,” said Dr Al Mulla, who is with Dubai lawyers Baker and McKenzie Habib Al Mulla.

“I think the victim should have more confidence in the system and come forward with their complaint, but I think the system also needs to come up with some sort of special procedure to accommodate these types of cases due to their sensitivity.

“Whether that be a special department, administered by females and where privacy prevails, as long as it meets the criteria, as long as the victim feels safe, as long as they are properly taken care of.”

Dr Al Mulla said victims of rape or sexual assault should know the procedure for reporting a rape.

“Unless the person has injuries and needs immediate medical attention, in which case she should go to hospital, she should go to the police first,” he said. “The police will take her statement to begin the investigation.”

An in-house forensic examiner affiliated with the police carries out medical tests in which a sexual assault evidence collection kit may be used to collect DNA that may have been left by a suspect.

“Based on the report the police will decide whether or not to press charges,” Dr Al Mulla said.

He said it was important for the victim to come forward to authorities as soon as possible after the attack. This would help forensic doctors to collect evidence to show that the assault happened and allow the perpetrator to be brought to justice.

Using DNA collected police can conclusively identify an assailant.

“The forensic evidence is needed in all cases and it is conclusive of the assault,” said Dr Al Mulla.

While the justice system is fair and a suspected attacker is innocent until proven guilty, the legal system will protect the woman or man making the claim, he said.

“Any person is innocent until convicted but we also need to accommodate the victim and she should be relaxed with issuing a complaint.”

Some allegations of rape in recent years have captured media attention when women making the report later found themselves facing prosecution for having extramarital sex or drinking alcohol without a licence.

Sometimes victims are blamed for the rape by leading perpetrators on or causing temptation, while the social stigma of being a rape victim can still be strong in certain cultures.

Yousef Al Bahar, an advocate at Al Bahar and Associates, said critics of the system may make women wary of reporting a crime, but that they should not fear the law.

“It depends on individual circumstances,” said the Emirati. “Some people feel shy reporting what happened to them, but if the woman did not do anything wrong she can complain and file a case against the person who did this to her.

“Nobody can take her rights from her. Everyone in this country, they are equal – local people or other nationalities.”

But people need to know the laws of the country, he said. In some cases reporting an attack may have consequences for the victim, such as if she had been drinking alcohol without a licence.

Mr Al Bahar said there were occasions when false allegations were made. For example, the night after a party, perhaps, when sex has resulted from a liaison, the victim “might say she did not consent and file a complaint”.

In such a scenario police could well charge both with having unlawful sex, said Mr Al Bahar.

jbell@thenational.ae

Updated: April 5, 2015 04:00 AM

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