Table of contents:
Everyone has heard about the UAE: it is fast in economic development and touristic initiatives, sets trends in the tech industry and simply belongs to the most important world trade hubs.
Luckily, it’s 2020, and the UAE made significant progress in improving the lives of thousands of informants. How will the process of whistleblowing look now?
New whistleblowing legislation in the UAE
The UAE does have a solution for rising demands of whistleblowers — in May 2020 Federal National Council approved and passed the first of its kind (in the UAE) witness protection program.
Before discussing the perks of the new bill, we must say a few words about its predecessor: The Financial Crime Law. The title speaks for itself: the law is directed to detect financial crimes and mentions whistleblowers as sources of information only on this matter. Informants who provide correct information which may be useful in protecting the interests of the UAE would be protected from prosecution and disciplinary action.
This protection is far from perfect, since it does not specify the kinds of retaliation against which a whistleblower has a legal right to be protected. The law guaranteed freedom and security of whistleblower — these definitions are too broad for us to take them seriously. Rewards and anonymity were never considered among the UAE benefits for whistleblowers; however, we might see some improvements here as well in the nearest future.
What is different about the new law for witnesses? We expect its enactment during summer: the task of the Witness protection program is the eradication of all previous mistakes. Before, whistleblowers had no separate precise handbook and legislation, were not protected from the accusation of trade secret and security breach and more.
The new law still doesn’t have anonymity options and rewards but covers a broader scope of misconduct: money laundering, the security of the state, terrorism and more. No details can be given for now, though it is evident that UAE approach protects collective interests more than individual. If we compared the new legislation of the UAE with the Western approach, we would highlight these points:
- Penalties in the UAE are far more severe: they vary from 6 months in jail to the death penalty for revealing the identity of the informant.
- Whistleblowers rarely get compensation for their losses both in Europe and in the UAE: still, the UAE will surprise you with possible money checks for whistleblowers. Play big or go home: $10.8 million is an exact sum of money given to Amjad Rihan for blowing the whistle on the money launderer and smuggler.
- Whistleblowing in the UAE is taken seriously (when taken). Those who are obliged to report on misconduct and fail to complete this obligation can be fined for $10,000. And those who retaliate against informants should be ready to pay nearly $30,000.
Blow the whistle in the app
Okay, now it’s really innovative: apart from introducing the bill on witness protection, the UAE launched the app for whistleblowing not a long time ago. “Inform the prosecution” is a product of 2018 with the main feature of providing the information about alleged misconduct. We don’t have any confirmation of the effectiveness and credibility of the app, but the idea of public governance seems attractive.
You, as a citizen, can react faster to the events you’ve witnessed and get a follow-up from the responsible authorities. We could not recommend it since it is not anonymous; it is also questionable to what extent it is confidential. However, such an offer exists, and it’s an additional opportunity for whistleblowers to express their concerns.
Now it’s time for the closing section of ’what is going on in the UAE — promises and evaluation. Whistleblowing culture only starts to form in the UAE, so we don’t expect much at the moment (and the draft bill of 2020 needs to become enacted). We can clearly see a demand from business investors and local government for concerned whistleblowers who notice misconduct faster than an external or internal audit. The UAE, therefore, is slowly moving to the example of the Western approach to compliance.
You will not find a variety of whistleblowers’ stories from the UAE because people will never report until they feel protected. This means that confidentiality should be described in details and informants should know whether by disclosing the information about their employers they don’t violate a trade secret. How soon will it happen in the UAE — we’ll keep tracking.