Arrest In the UAE Important Information


All persons who commit an offense within territorial jurisdiction of the UAE are subject to prosecution by the authorities of this country. The UAE’s overall authority to try foreigners here as well as its own citizens is based upon its sovereignty, which is the power of a nation to make and enforce its own laws within its own boundaries. Just as in the United States, the UAE government has the internationally recognized right to try foreigners as well as its own nationals within its territory. In the event of a conviction and sentence to confinement, the convicted person must serve his sentence in a UAE penal facility. There is at present no prisoner transfer treaty between the UAE and the United States.

The Role of the U.S. Government

Neither the United States Government nor its representatives can get an individual out of prison, or provide legal counsel. A U.S. passport does not entitle its bearer to any special privileges.  While in the UAE, American citizens are subject to the same laws as are all UAE citizens and residents. American citizens should not expect, and will not receive, preferential treatment because of their nationality. Nevertheless, the United States Embassy in Abu Dhabi can impress upon the host government that the U.S. Government is seriously concerned at all times about the welfare and legal and human rights of its citizens abroad.  In any case, neither arrest nor conviction deprives a U.S. national of the right of Consular assistance which is an inherent right of every citizen.  This right is in no way abridged by evidence of guilt, by the nature of the alleged crime, or by the personal merit of the individual.

What the Consul Can Do

  • A Consular officer can visit an American citizen in jail to check on the treatment which the person is receiving and to monitor the state of their health and well-being. Visits also help the Consul determine whether assistance is needed to help the prisoner adjust to the prison routine, such as assisting the prisoner to obtain soap and other basic supplies.
  • The Consular officer can give the prisoner a list of reputable local attorneys. We cannot help choose from the list, however, nor can we give legal advice.
  • The Consular officer intercedes with local authorities to ensure that a prisoner’s rights under local law are fully observed and that they are treated humanely in accordance with internationally accepted standards. To do so the Consul will follow the progress of the case in the judicial process and, where necessary and requested, act as liaison between the prisoner, the prisoner’s lawyer, the court, and the prosecutor.
  • If the prisoner wishes, the consular officer can protest any mistreatment or abuse against the prisoner to the appropriate authorities.
  • With a signed Privacy Act release form from the prisoner, the Consular officer can notify family, friends, a Congressional Representative, and/or others designated by the prisoner of their situation, and relay requests for financial or other assistance.

Please note the quickest and most reliable way to receive emergency money from the United States is via private sources.  Prisoners can also receive money through the State Department via Western Union channels:

Trust Fund Payable to: Department of State for:  ___________________
At American Embassy Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

The U.S. Privacy Act

The Privacy Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-579) was enacted to protect U.S. citizens against unauthorized release of information about them by the government. If you want us to notify your family or friends about your arrest you must first give us written permission to do so.

The Embassy will not inform any person of your arrest without your permission. Even if your family or friends find out by other means, we will be unable to discuss your case with them without your written permission. Although we routinely report to the Department of State in Washington on the condition of American prisoners in our consular district, the Department of State does not release this information to individuals without your permission.

These files are maintained primarily for the purpose of providing protection and assistance to American citizens abroad and not for law enforcement purposes. While there is no automatic or mandatory dissemination of information in consular files to other agencies, we can release specific information to other agencies that have a legitimate interest in such data. Therefore, for legitimate law enforcement purposes in the U.S., the appropriate law enforcement agency in the U.S. may be notified.

Nonetheless, American citizens arrested overseas are not liable for prosecution for the same crime upon their return to the U.S. unless they are also wanted for an offense committed in the U.S. Arrest records maintained by the Japanese government, however, are not bound by the restrictions of the Privacy Act.

We have no control over what information UAE law enforcement passes to their U.S. counterparts or to INTERPOL. It is possible that U.S. police agencies may have acquired more information about a prisoner from these sources than the Embassy or the Department of State in Washington has at its disposal.