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United Arab Emirates: Federal Supreme Court Orders Drivers to Pay Blood Money After Killing Pedestrians

(Aug. 22, 2018) The Federal Supreme Court of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has ordered faulty drivers in two separate cases of traffic fatalities to pay compensation to the victims’ families. According to Islamic law, anyone causing the death or injury of another person accidentally or intentionally is required to pay a form of financial compensation called “blood money” to the victim’s family. (Bassma Al-Jandaly, Blood Money in Islamic Law, GULF NEWS (July 9, 2009).)

Case One

On August 6, 2018, the UAE Federal Supreme Court upheld rulings issued by lower courts ordering a driver to pay blood money for killing a pedestrian. The blood money was an additional punishment to a three-month jail sentence. (Ismail Sebugwaawo, Driver Fined Dh100,000 for Killing Pedestrian in UAE, KHALEEJ TIMES (Aug. 6, 2018).)

The driver had struck the victim with his car while the victim was crossing the road. The victim died on the spot. A medical report showed that the victim had sustained severe injuries and multiple fractures to his body. Investigations by traffic officers said the driver’s high speed and inattentiveness caused the accident. They also blamed the pedestrian’s failure to abide by traffic regulations. (Id.)

The Court of First Instance and the Federal Court of Appeal had ordered the driver to pay blood money of 100,000 dirhams (Dh) (about US$27,217) to the victim’s family. The Court of First Instance had also sentenced the driver to three months of imprisonment. (Id.)

The driver challenged the verdicts of both courts before the Federal Supreme Court for the purpose of reducing the amount of blood money and repealing the jail sentence. He argued that he was abiding by the speed limit and not driving recklessly at the time of the accident, and that the victim had contributed to the accident by crossing the street from a place not designated for pedestrians. Accordingly, he requested that the court reduce the amount of blood money by half. (Id.)

The prosecution team was able to present evidence showing that the driver had been driving above the speed limit and had been inattentive. Therefore, the Federal Supreme Court did not accept the driver’s petition concerning the repeal of the jail sentence. However, the court agreed to reduce the blood money by half as the driver requested because the victim had crossed the street from the wrong spot. (Id.)

Case Two

In February 2018, a vehicle owned by a local company hit and killed a man because the driver was driving recklessly. (Ismail Sebugwaawo, Dh200,000 Blood Money for Family of Man Killed in UAE Road Accident, KHALEEJ TIMES (Feb. 23, 2018).)

The Court of First Instance had ordered the driver and the insurance company to pay blood money of Dh200,000 (about US$54,435) to the victim’s family, along with Dh50,000 (about US$13,609) as an additional compensation. When the driver and insurance company challenged the verdict of the Court of First Instance before the Federal Court of Appeal, however, the Appellate Court reduced the amount of blood money from Dh200,000 to Dh100,000 and canceled the Dh50,000 additional compensation. (Id.)

The victim’s family appealed the Court of Appeal’s verdict to the Federal Supreme Court, which subsequently overturned the verdict of the Appellate Court and upheld the verdict of the Court of First Instance. The Federal Supreme Court stated in its judgment that the Court of Appeal did not provide any justification to reduce the blood money from Dh200,000 to Dh100,000. The Supreme Court also argued that the Dh50,000 additional compensation to the victim’s family was a reasonable amount. (Id.)

Applicable Law

Article 1 of Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 and its amendments states that Islamic Shari‘a law must apply to crimes requiring the payment of blood money. (Law No. 3 of 1987, AL-JARIDAH AL-RASMIYAH [OFFICIAL GAZETTE], vol. 182, 8 Dec. 1978.) Article 29 of Law No. 3 of 1978, as amended by Law No. 34 of 2005, provides that one or more of the following penalties may sanction a misdemeanor: imprisonment, a fine exceeding Dh1,000 (about US$272), or blood money. (Law No. 34 of 2005 amending Law No. 3 of 1987, art. 29, AL-JARIDAH AL RASMIYAH, vol. 441, 31 Dec. 2005.) Furthermore, article 336 of the same Law stipulates that whoever unintentionally kills another person may be punished by a term of imprisonment for up to ten years. (Law No. 3 of 1987.)