United Arab Emirates
Head of state
Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Head of government
Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
Death penalty
4.7 million
Life expectancy
77.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f)
10/12 per 1,000
Adult literacy
90 per cent

Foreign migrant workers were denied substantive rights and faced exploitation and abuse. Women continued to be discriminated against in both law and practice. At least 28 people were sentenced to death; no executions were reported.


In March, following his visit to the UAE in October 2009, the UN Special Rapporteur on racism urged the government to allow long-term residents of the UAE to apply for citizenship, and resolve equitably the situation of UAE residents who remain stateless, allowing them to have access to health, education and social services as well as jobs. He also urged the government to take legislative and other measures to protect foreign migrant workers from exploitation.

In April, police in Sharjah were reported to have undertaken door-to-door searches looking for couples living out of wedlock and to have arrested at least one couple.

In August, the Supreme Court ruled that the interests of the child should be considered paramount in child custody cases.

In October, the government announced that it had completed payment of compensation to Bangladeshi nationals formerly employed as child camel jockeys in the UAE.

Top of page

Women’s rights

Women remained subject to discrimination in law and in practice.

In February, the CEDAW Committee urged the government to take comprehensive measures to address domestic and other forms of violence against women, noting that there is no law specifically criminalizing violence against women, and to establish an independent national human rights institution conforming to international standards whose mandate should specifically include promoting gender equality.

In October, the Supreme Court upheld a husband’s right to “discipline” his wife and children, provided that it left no mark, effectively sanctioning domestic violence. The ruling stated that the action taken must not exceed limits provided for in Islamic law.

Top of page

Migrants’ rights

Foreign migrant workers, particularly those from poor and developing countries employed in construction and as domestic workers, continued to be bound to their employers under the much-criticized sponsorship system of employment, and faced exploitation and abuse. The government took no effective steps to alleviate this, although some large foreign investors required local employers to improve working conditions as part of contract agreements.

Top of page

Torture and other ill-treatment

In January, a court in Abu Dhabi acquitted Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan of assault and rape-related charges in connection with a 2004 attack on an Afghan merchant with whom he had a business dispute. The court ruled that he had been acting under the influence of drugs administered by associates who wished to film and then blackmail him.

In April, 17 Indian men who had been sentenced to death in March by a lower court in Sharjah told journalists that they had been ill-treated following their arrest in January 2009. No investigation into their allegations was known to have been carried out.

Top of page

Death penalty

At least 28 people were sentenced to death by lower courts, including the 17 Indian nationals sentenced in March. Lower court cases are referred first to appeal courts and then to the Supreme Court. No executions were recorded.

In December, the UAE abstained when the UN General Assembly voted in favour of a worldwide moratorium on executions.

Top of page

Human rights by region

World regions Midde East and North Africa Asia Pacific Europe and Central Asia Africa Americas


A number of countries in Africa celebrated the 50th anniversary of their independence during the year while others prep ...


In the Americas many human rights have been recognized in law, if not always in practice, over the past 50 years. Whi ...

Asia Pacific

In a region with almost two thirds of the world’s population, stretching a third of the way around the planet, ...

Europe & Central Asia

The right to truth and justice, and the determination of victims and their relatives to achieve this how ...

Middle East and North Africa

2010 dawned with Yemen an unusual focus of international attention following an alleged terrorist ...

Jump to a Country Report

Country Reports

No reports available

Country Visits

No information on visits available