"Being a witness to an incident in Dubai can have serious consequences." Radha Stirling
Asa’s ordeal started when her friends had taken photos of a man who was asleep on the sofa of a hotel lobby, reportedly “drunk”. The group said that when he awoke, he was enraged and began chasing the boys and attacking them. Asa “heard the commotion and came back to see what was going on”. Asa had not partaken in taking photographs nor was she involved in the subsequent scuffle. The extent of her involvement was to pick up a pair of broken glasses and put them in a nearby bin.
Being a witness to an incident in Dubai can have serious consequences and in this case, Asa was accused of assault and theft, all because she was “there”. Meanwhile, the boys managed to exit the UAE, leaving Asa as the sole defendant.
Radha Stirling CEO of Detained in Dubai, the NGO representing Asa, had this to say, “Asa’s experience echoes that of countless others. A conspicuously high number of cases in the UAE are concluded as a result of suspects’ ‘confessions’ often in lieu of any other type of evidence collected through investigation. Suspects are put under extreme pressure to sign ‘confessions’ in Arabic. We have even seen cases where suspects were forced to sign blank documents upon which the police later wrote their ‘confessions’. These invalid confessions carry decisive weight in trials, despite the coercion used to obtain them.
“Like Asa, any expat is terrified in such a situation. Westerners need to bear in mind that the legal system in the UAE has a long way to go before it is as modern as the skyline”.