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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Senior UAE anti-narcotics chief calls for harsher sentences for drug possession

Director of Federal Anti-Narcotic Department says those caught with large amounts of drugs should face longer jail terms

Brigadier Saeed Abdullah Al Suwaidi is calling for hasher sentences for those caught in possession of large amounts of drugs.
Brigadier Saeed Abdullah Al Suwaidi is calling for hasher sentences for those caught in possession of large amounts of drugs.

A senior UAE anti-narcotics chief has vowed to get even tougher on drug possession - after proposing stiffer sentences for offenders.

With global drug use on the rise according to a recent UN report, Brigadier Saeed Abdullah Al Suwaidi, director of Federal Anti-Narcotic Department and vice-president of the Federal Anti-Narcotic Council, has told The National says stricter laws are needed to combat the crime.

“We are proposing introducing tougher laws on individuals caught with large amounts of drugs,” he said.

“The tougher penalties we are looking to enforce are only on those with large amounts of drugs that indicates that it is not for personal use and rehabilitation will remain the main intent for addicts.”

The new law, he said are in line with international practices and punishments

It will see an increase in prison sentences on individuals arrested in possession of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances in specified quantities that are too large for personal use.

The sentences he said, will differ depending on the amount and type of drug in possession during the arrest.

“We can’t say that we will double the prison sentences but we can safely say that it will be much tougher,” he said.

For drug addicts, the focus is more on rehabilitation and the laws will not be changed, Brig Al Suwaidi said.

In 2016, a raft of changes to the UAE’s drugs laws were introduced that significantly relaxed punishments for users – although not smugglers and suppliers.

They included reducing the minimum jail sentence from four years to two. The use of illegal drugs was also downgraded to a misdemeanour and options other than jail were introduced for first-time offenders, such as a maximum Dh10,000 fine, a stay in a rehabilitation centre or community service.

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Rehab options were strengthened and the Attorney General was given the power to send an offender for treatment without the case going to court, after advice from police and prosecutions.

Courts were given the option of adding a minimum fine of Dh10,000 to sentences for serial offenders. The minimum period spent in rehabilitation centres was also reduced to two years from three, among other changes.

“The world is seeing an increase and spread of drug production ever registered based on the 2018 world drug report. This rise in drug production has inturn increased the number of traffickers and smugglers. Today, the rates of poppies and cocaine production are he highest in history,” Brig Al Suwaidi said.

Those arrested in possession will, however, not receive the death penalty which is currently only for drug traffickers and smugglers.

Previously Brigadier Al Suwaidi, said that there was an increase in the rate of drug use. According to statistics, there is a rise in cases and drug seizures in 2017 compared to the previous year.

“Drug seizures have increased by a whopping 538.2 per cent," he said.

The number of drug cases in 2016 was 3,774, while the number of arrested persons was 5,130, and the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances seized was 9,640 kg. In 2017, 4,454 cases were registered, 6,440 were arrested and seizures jumped to 61,525kg.

“It is time we put an end to this fatal habit which is destroying the lives of children and families but a shared responsibility is needed to combat it," Brig Al Suwaidi said.

Partnerships, he said, are paramount . "Partnerships with societies, parents as well as government institutions is necessary. It is a team effort and with persistence, we can greatly reduce the number of drug smugglers and end the drug epidemic that is facing the world today,” Brig Al Suwaidi said.