History of Federal Law No. 14 for the year 2014 on combating the communicable diseases, analysis of the said law from the criminal perspective and the recent regulatory measures taken by UAE Government in light of the current global outbreak of Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic by Ahmed Elmahdy
A – Introduction and history of the Law No. 14 for the year 2014
Following the Emirates Union on 2 December 1971 and the formal declaration of the establishment of the United Arab Emirates, notable plans and strategies have taken place to encourage investments and economic growth. The positive outcome of the said economic growth strategies turned the UAE to be a very attractive environment for foreign investment. Large global economic entities and companies started to pump their investments in the UAE and the country became one of the largest destinations in the region and the world for foreign employment.
In the light of the above-illustrated facts, huge numbers of foreign employment, workers and aids began to enter and settle in the UAE, resulting in the population statistics to jump from 232,000 in 1970 to 1,016,000 in 1980 with an increase rate of 337.9%. Considering the known global pandemics and communicable diseases at that time such as Plague, Cholera, and Malaria, the UAE government took the first legislative approach and issued Federal Law No. 27 for the year 1981 issued on 7 November 1981 concerning the prevention of the communicable diseases (the “1981 Law”).
The 1981 Law was significantly sought and required at that time to provide for and establish the requisite and necessary health standards and precautionary measures to ensure the public health of the UAE population and people living within its territories. The law defined communicable diseases as diseases transferable to others by human beings or by animals, insects, foodstuffs, places or other things and substances contaminated by the microbes and toxins of such diseases. The 1981 Law further provided penalties applicable on the violators of the relevant provisions of the said law, which penalties include provisions for fines and imprisonment.
Post enforcement of the 1981 Law in the UAE, in 2014, one of the Corona Viruses Family began to spread in the Middle East Region and was called the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Related Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). MERS-CoV, akin to the current global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, related to the infection and inflammation of the respiratory tract On 24 April 2014, the statistic shared by the World Health Organization confirmed 254 reported cases in the world, with 93 confirmed deaths. The statistic shared by UAE confirmed 33 reported cases with 9 confirmed deaths. It ought to be pointed out that the MERS-CoV was not identified as a communicable disease under the 1981 Law.
In light of outbreak of MERS-CoV in the UAE and considering the fact that the 1981 Law did not legally identify the same as a communicable disease, the UAE government realized the necessity of issuing another law which provided legal coverage for a broader spectrum of “Communicable Diseases”.
In this regard, UAE issued the Federal Law no. (14) for the year 2014 dated 20 November 2014 on combating communicable diseases (“2014 Law”). The 2014 Law provides a broad and detailed schedule of the communicable diseases and is inclusive of more diseases which were not identified in the 1981 Law and provides for more effective and broad measures to be taken in regards to the same. Such diseases include, without limitation, (HIV/AIDS), Influenza Avian, Rubella, SARS, and any unusual emerging disease specified by the concerned department in the UAE Ministry of Health. It ought to be pointed that the 2014 Law shall now apply to the COVID-19 Coronavirus, as it has been formally identified as a communicable disease by the World Health Organization and consequently by the UAE Ministry of Health.
B – Preventive measures as prescribed by 2014 Law and comparing the respective penalties concerning the violation thereof with the relevant conducts penalized under the UAE Penal Code
In the light of the unprecedented outbreak of the pandemic viruses, including the Corona Viruses Family such as SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2013 and 2014 (discussed above), the UAE legislators provided for a more detailed and stricter preventive measures, obligations and penalties in the 2014 Law in order to combat the risk of such pandemics and to ensure the wellbeing of the society. The UAE Ministry of Health has announced that the 2014 Law shall also apply to the Covid-19 Coronavirus, and legally identified the Covid-19 Coronavirus as a communicable disease under the 2014 Law. The 2014 Law, amongst other things, provides for the following preventive measures, which, if breached, are punishable by imprisonment, fine or both (as applicable):
- the doctors, pharmacists, pharmaceutical technicians, and medical professionals are obligated to inform the competent health authorities that a person is suffering from or died of a communicable disease within a 24 hours’ time period. Any failure in this regard would subject the violator to be liable for imprisonment or a fine of no more than AED10,000 or both. The same obligation applies to any adult who came in contact with an infected person but failed to inform the UAE Ministry of Health, including, without limitation any professional superior, educational supervisor captain of a ship or airplane or a driver of a public transport vehicle who knowingly transports infected individuals etc.
- as per Article 38 of the 2014 Law, anyone who knows that he or she is infected or suspects an infection and fails to inform the health authorities while visiting any place other than a medical facility without the approval of the UAE Ministry of Health or any other concerned authority shall be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine of no less than AED10,000 and no more than AED50,000. The same applies to individuals who fail to show up for tests and treatment despite knowing that they are infected or suspect the possibility of an infection. Likewise, the law applies to those who refuse to adhere to the preventive measures advised or prescriptions and instructions given to them.
- as per Article 39 of the 2014 Law any person who knows that he or she suffers from a communicable disease and yet intentionally indulges in behavior that exposes others to transmission shall be punished with imprisonment of up to five years in jail and/or a fine between AED 50,000 to AED 100,000. In the case of repeated offences, such individuals shall be imprisoned for a period twice as that is stipulated by the said law.
Could a person get punished legally if any of the above stated prohibited acts were conducted regardless of the issuance of the 2014 Law?
The answer to the above questions is absolutely yes. Such actions could potentially have been covered by Federal Law no. (3) for the year 1987 concerning the UAE Penal Code (“UAE Penal Code”).
The above discussed provisions and penalties stipulated by 2014 Law can be compared with the relevant and similar provisions and penalties stipulated in the Federal Law no. (3) for the year 1987 concerning the UAE Penal Code (“UAE Penal Code”). The said comparison would depict that the provisions of the UAE Penal Code provided for a comparatively lenient penalty, which was considered by the UAE legislators in 2014 Law, considering the severity of violations thereof.
The relevant provisions of the UAE Penal Code discussed are as follows:
Article 343 of the UAE Penal Code stipulates:
“Shall be punished with the detention for a term not exceeding one year and/or to a fine not in excess of ten thousand dirham, whoever transgress through his fault the body safety of others“.
The element of “fault” is discussed in Article 38 of the UAE Penal Code which states:
“the fault arises if a criminal result occurs by reason of the offender’s fault whether such fault is negligence, inadvertence, carelessness, recklessness, imprudence or non-compliance with laws, regulations, rules or orders“.
Article 348 from UAE Penal Code stipulates:
“Shall be sentenced to detention and/or to a fine, whoever deliberately perpetrate san act that exposes the life, health, security or freedom of human beings to danger. Without prejudice to a prejudice any more severe penalty prescribed by law, the penalty shall be detention in case the act results in a prejudice of any kind “.
The period of detention is defined in Article 69 of the UAE Peal Code which states:
“Unless the law provides otherwise, the minimum period of detention is one month and the maximum may not exceed three years ”
Analysis of the relevant penalties prescribed under UAE Penal Code and 2014 Law (stated herein above)
- Comparison of Articles 343 of UAE Penal Code and Article 38 of 2014 Law
Article 343 of the UAE Penal Code could be compared with the Article 38 of 2014 Law. It is evident that the fine prescribed in Article 343 of the UAE Penal Code is limited to AED 10,000, whereas the fine for the similar prohibition under Article 38 of 2014 Law is prescribed to be not less than AED10,000 and not more than AED50,000.
- Comparison of Articles 348 of UAE Penal Code and Article 39 of 2014 Law
Article 348 of the UAE Penal Code could be compared with the Article 39 of 2014 Law. It is evident that the penalty prescribed under Article 348 of the UAE Penal Code is for the detention of maximum three years, whereas for the same offence, the punishment prescribed under Article 39 of 2014 Law is imprisonment up to five years in jail and/or a fine between AED50,000 to AED100,000.
The above stated comparative analysis indicate that the UAE legislators realized the severity of the violation of these respective obligations and recognised the requirement for the imposition of stricter penalties in this regard to ensure the public’s compliance with the same. Consequently, the UAE legislators enforced the 2014 Law to address this issue, which shall now also be applicable to the violators of the preventive measures put in place for Covid-19.
C – Recent regulatory measures taken by the UAE Government given the global outbreak of the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic
UAE is one of the leading countries in the healthcare field and has set precedents in achieving the idealistic strategic planning towards effectively curtailing the crises and emergencies posed by the unpresented global pandemics. This can currently be seen by the UAE Governments constant and consistent efforts to put in place requisite measures to control and prevent the current global outbreak of the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to the application and enforceability of the relevant provisions of 2014 Law, various other decisions and regulations have been promulgated by the UAE Government to combat the outbreak of Covid-19. On 24 March 2020, the UAE Cabinet promulgated Cabinet Decision No. (17) for the year 2020 (“Decision”), which requires all natural and juristic persons to comply with the measures mandated by the concerned authorities to combat Covid-19. The Decision further states that the failure to comply with these measures would be treated as a violation which shall expose the offender to penalties, including responsibility to bear the costs of any remedial measures, closure of premises, and fines (as applicable). The rationale of the imposition of such penalties is to deter individuals from the non-compliance of the preventive measures that have been put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus and ensure that the public safety is not further and unnecessarily jeopardized by the violators.
The UAE Attorney General published Resolution No. 38/2020 (“Resolution”) comprising a list of violations and fines. The Resolution, taking effect from the date of its promulgation (i.e. 26 March 2020), provides for inter alia, the following fines:
- Violation of an order for mandatory hospitalisation and failing to abide by home quarantine or re-testing instructions – AED 50,000;
- Violation of prohibitions or restrictions on gatherings, meetings, private and public celebrations, and on gathering or being present at public locations, private farms, or agricultural estates:
- AED 10,000 for the organisers; and
- AED 5,000 for the participants/ attendees;
- Leaving home for unnecessary reasons, or for purposes other than work or the purchase of basic needs – AED 2,000;
- Exceeding the maximum permitted number of passengers in a car by more than three persons – AED 1,000 for the vehicle’s driver;
- Failing to wear medical facemasks in closed places or failing to observe the safe distance between individuals AED 10,000.
D – Conclusion:
Based on the discussion above, it is evident that UAE has always done all that is necessary and requisite, including putting in necessary measures in place to combat the outbreak of the various pandemics over time. In this regard, UAE has inter alia, passed and enforced requisite legislation to ensure the public’s compliance with the said measures. In the light of the statistics being announced every day regarding the increase of Covid-19 cases confirmed all over the world and especially in UAE, the individuals should now recognize the importance of the preventive measures and prohibitions put in place by the relevant laws and regulations issued by the UAE Government and more importantly, the consequences and penalties of the violations thereof.