Advocating for Rights in Dubai

Safi Roshdy
4 min readApr 11, 2024

A work in progress with precedents to be set.

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

I was today years old when I learnt why “Miranda rights” are so called. I was also today years old when I went down a rabbit hole of Wikipedia entries after deciding to write this article, and ended up on a page dedicated to “Human Rights in the United Arab Emirates,” (or lack there of?). Going through the page made me realize how lucky I was to not have been forcibly disappeared, tortured, abused to death or killed. And yet, here I am taking my chances and writing this from Dubai, UAE.

Originally, I only intended to document my experience with the criminal law apparatus in the city and to declare my intention to help those who find themselves afflicted with having to defend themselves against criminal charges in Dubai, by setting up a platform to advocate for them. Now, I realize how naive I have been to this day. But then again, maybe there is hope for a better future?

I was acquitted by the Dubai Court of Appeal, two weeks ago, of the criminal charge brought against me by Dubai Public Prosecution, of “insulting using an information network or information technology means”. The Court of Appeal upheld the Dubai Court of First Instance’s decision and rejected the Prosecution’s appeal “in substance.” I had written the court memos I used for my defense after countless hours of poring over sample memos available online and studying legal arguments used against similar charges in courts of law where the Arabic language is employed. I had only formally studied the UAE Ministry of Education’s Arabic language curriculum until the 6th grade and I have no formal legal education.

Needless to say, the experience was not a breeze, and my life had been upended for the past 5 months, if not 2 years. I still have reason to mistrust the authorities, and given the precedents detailed on Wikipedia, the concern I feel over my continued detention in Dubai, is valid. In spite of being acquitted twice, the first time by one judge, and the second time by a panel of 3 judges, my request to have the travel ban, which has been imposed on me, lifted, was denied by the Prosecution with no written explanation provided. After contacting the Prosecution call center, I was told that I have to wait 30 days after the Court of Appeal’s decision in order to request that the travel ban be lifted.

“I never want to be in a position where I would be responsible for depriving somebody of their freedom,” I told a friend the other day. Even though I technically “won,” I cannot help but feel like I am on the losing end because whoever was responsible for bringing the charge against me is alive and kicking, but then again, they have to live with their possibly spiteful, sadistic or misguided selves, and that is not something I would wish upon anybody.

As believers in God, Muslims are supposed to believe that God’s will is all-pervading and that nothing falls outside its orbit, in other words, that everything happens for a reason, and Muslims are encouraged to forgive. Mercy is an overarching theme in the Islamic tradition and believers are encouraged “to embody this Divine attribute within themselves and towards all of creation.” Judging by the volume of criminal cases brought forward to Dubai Courts alone, it seems that at least some Muslims may not be practicing what has been preached to them.

If anything, knowledge of the banal crimes which get prosecuted in Dubai, and of the intimidation people in the UAE endure over social media posts or publicly expressed beliefs, would put the influencer-backed “Dubai is crime-free and one of the safest cities in the world” narrative to shame. But proponents of the city, and the lavishly compensated Public Relations firms which have their back, will then claim that it is all relative, and that compared to other cities in the world (which are not recognized by them as also being relatively bigger and older), Dubai is indeed safer; safer for scammers, maybe?

Throughout my own personal ordeal with the legal system in Dubai, I could not help but wonder why a “relatively” boring court decorum was maintained in a city where the police force is endowed with Lamborghinis and in a country where high-tech surveillance is omnipresent.

In the United States, where state police could use some supercars, the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution each contain a Due Process Clause which prohibit the deprivation of “life, liberty, or property” by the federal and state governments, respectively, without due process of law. The UAE claims that its constitution and laws too guarantee due process and adherence to “international fair trial standards”, in spite of documented experience which speaks to the contrary.

In light of the atrocities which continue to take place in Gaza under international eyes, it is no longer outrageous for any country to claim adherence to international standards. It can also be argued that the U.S. Army sought international standards when it reopened Abu Ghraib prison in 2003.

The thought I am going to conclude this article with is that maybe the lucky and privileged among us can help channel humanity’s collective and continuous struggle into reform. Muslims can take solace in the fact that Prophet Muhammad was himself persecuted for his beliefs, and his followers tortured, abused to death or killed. “Pre-Islamic Arabia” is referred to as “jahiliyya” for a reason.

If you are a practicing attorney in Dubai, and would like to lend a helping hand to those in need of pro bono legal counsel, please reach out at and let’s work together.



Safi Roshdy

A proponent of human intelligence. Founded Dubai Public Defender and Ahlanwasahlan LLC