Permanent committee for human rights logo
Permanent committee for human rights logo



Overview and Introduction

The constitutional structure of the UAE ensures a balanced and legitimate exercise of the State’s powers and includes dedicated institutions for the promotion of human rights protection in the country. 

The UAE is a federation of seven sovereign emirates brought together in 1971 under the Constitution which entrusts the government of the country to a system of federal authorities: the President, the Supreme Council, the Council of Ministers or the Cabinet, the Federal National Council and the Federal Judiciary. 

  • The Federal Supreme Council is the highest authority in the UAE. It draws up general policies and approves various federal legislations. The President – who is also the ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi – and the rulers of all the other Emirates sit on the Federal Supreme Council.
  • The Cabinet, or Council of Ministers, is the executive branch of the Federation. It is composed of all Ministers and Ministers of State, and is headed by the Prime Minister. The Cabinet is responsible for executing the general policy of the federal government internally and externally. Within the Cabinet, the creation in 2016 of the Minister of Tolerance position (renamed Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence in 2020) underlined the country’s efforts to promote acceptance of all individuals in society.
  • The Federal National Council is the consultative parliamentary body of the UAE. It has 40 members, half of whom are women. Since 2006, half of the 40-member Federal National Council have been elected by a countrywide electoral college. The Federal National Council is a member of the International Parliamentary Union and the Arab Parliamentary Union.
  • The Federal Judiciary consists of independent courts guaranteeing the rule of law. Article 94 of the Constitution established an independent judiciary. Judges are only subject to the law and are protected from any external interferences. Everyone in the UAE , including foreign nationals enjoys the right to a fair trial, which includes the right to be heard, to submit evidence for the judges’ evaluation, and to challenge adverse decisions. Legal aid is provided to those who cannot afford representation, to ensure that economic conditions are not an obstacle to justice for anyone.

National Legislation and Implementation

  • In the UAE, the law creates a reliable set of guarantees for all individuals, and their implementation is guaranteed by an effective judicial system available to all. The country ranks first in the MENA region on the independent “Rule of Law” 2022 Index, and tops the regional lists in the categories of “Regulatory Enforcement”, “Civil Justice” and “Criminal Justice”.
  • The Constitution establishes justice, equality and the rule of law as fundamental legal precepts in the UAE. It provides that all persons are equal before the law, without discrimination based on race, nationality, religious belief, or social status. Moreover, the Constitution prohibits torture and degrading treatment, and guarantees everyone’s personal liberty and freedom from arrest, search, detention and imprisonment other than in accordance with the law. These rights and freedoms are granted to citizens and non-citizens alike.
  • The Constitution also protects civil liberties, including freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and the right to peaceful assembly, the right to property and the right to private life in accordance with the laws and regulations in the country. The tenets of UAE laws are influenced by Islamic precepts of Sharia and most codified UAE laws reflect the influence of Islamic norms and other norms from the civil law tradition, such as the Egyptian and French systems.
  • Constitutional provisions are complemented by the Civil Procedure Law no. 11 of 1992 and Federal Law no. 10 of 1992 on Evidence. The UAE Constitution, the Civil Procedure Law and the Evidence Law form a comprehensive legislative architecture ensuring that everyone in the UAE can approach, obtain redress and enforce legal rights through a competent court of law, which is legally bound to follow a transparent and fair adjudication process and to decide disputes in accordance with the law.
  • In the field of criminal law, in particular, robust rule of law guarantees shape the functioning of court proceedings relating to individual criminal responsibility. The Federal Penal Code assumes that all accused benefit from a presumption of innocence, and no penalty can be imposed without a conclusive and court-decided finding of liability. Anyone accused of a felony must have a lawyer at the trial stage. If the accused does not appoint a lawyer, the court must  assign an ex officio lawyer and bear the lawyer’s expenses.  
  • The UAE civil law system includes all relevant laws, codified and updated regularly to meet the evolving needs of business and civil society, locally and globally. Sharia-inspired rules govern matters of personal status (especially family ones), and are applicable in proceedings before Sharia courts, which operate alongside civil and criminal ones, chiefly for UAE citizens. Federal Decree Law No. 41 of 2022 on Civil Personal Status for Non-Muslims regulates family affairs of non-Muslim residents of the UAE and provides them with the option to follow the laws of their home country. 
  • In addition to fairness and openness, UAE courts strive to provide litigants with speedy justice and advanced tools to resolve the disputes effectively and without unnecessary costs and delays. In 2017, the UAE approved the use of “electronic trials” to provide speedy civil trials and keep up with technological changes. Through video-calls, specialised courts can hear disputes related to labour matters, finance, contracts, or even intellectual property rights. In 2018, Dubai Courts, in cooperation with the Dubai Future Foundation, launched the C3 Court, a system that drastically cuts down the length of proceedings, instituting panels composed of first instance, appellate and supreme judges, who hear the case together and produce final decisions.