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United Arab Emirates

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The Constitution of the United Arab Emirates (Arabic: دستور دولة الامارات العربية المتحدة‎, dastūr dawlat al-imarāt al-'arabīya al-muttaḥida) provides a legal and political framework for the operation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a federation of seven emirates. The Constitution came into effect on December 2, 1971 and was permanently accepted in May 1996. Authored by Adi Bitar, a former judge and legal advisor, the Constitution is written in 10 parts and has 151 Articles. The United Arab Emirates celebrates the formation of the Union (and acceptance of the federal constitution) as National Day.



Adi Bitar with HH the late President of the UAE Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan taking instructions regarding the constitution

Historically independent kingdoms, the modern emirates that constitute the United Arab Emirates and the modern kingdoms of Qatar and Bahrain entered into a treaty with the United Kingdom in 1853 and agreed to a "perpetual maritime truce" with the UK; the kingdoms were collectively referred to as the Trucial States or as Trucial Oman. Disputes between the states were often arbitrated by the United Kingdom. In the late 1960s, the Trucial States Council was formed by the emirates, Qatar and Bahrain. The United Kingdom in 1968 announced its decision to end the treaty relationships with the kingdoms. The nine kingdoms attempted to form a union of Arab Emirates, but were unable to agree upon the terms of the union. While Bahrain and Qatar became independent countries, the other seven emirates attempted to form a temporary, federal union in 1971.

In 1971, the Constitution was established as a temporary legal and political framework that provided for Abu Dhabi to be the capital of the Union and Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan to be the President of the United Arab Emirates, authored by Adi Bitar. In 1979, a draft "permanent" constitution was prepared which allowed for the creation of a unified military and judicial system. The emirate of Dubai was strongly opposed to the unification of the military forces and, along with Ras al Khaimah, refused to attend Supreme Council meetings of the union. Mediations by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as well as by other UAE rulers reduced differences between Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi; in May 1996, six years after Rashid bin Saeed al Maktoum's death, Dubai agreed to a permanent constitution, and one that would unify the armed forces of the UAE; however, Dubai, like Ras al Khaimah, maintains its own judicial courts, which are not subject to governance from the Supreme Court of the UAE.[1]


The preamble of the constitution declares the intent of the rulers of six emirates (Ras al Khaimah joined the Union on February 10, 1972) to form a "comprehensive, democratic regime" in an "Islamic, Arab society".

We, the Rulers of the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm AI Quwain and Fujairah:

Whereas it is our desire and the desire of the people of our Emirates to establish a Union between these Emirates, to promote a better life, more enduring stability and a higher international status for the Emirates and their people; ...proclaim before the Supreme and Omnipotent Creator, and before all the peoples, our agreement to this provisional Constitution, to which our signatures were appended, which shall be implemented during the transitional period indicated in it;

— Preamble, Constitution of the United Arab Emirates[2]

Parts of the Constitution

Some of the important Articles and Parts of the Constitution are listed below [2]:

Part one

    1. Article 2 — Abu Dhabi is the capital of the Union
    2. Article 4 — Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is the President of the United Arab Emirates
    3. Article 10 — aim of the Union is the maintenance of its independence and sovereignty
    4. Article 11 — the Union forms a single economic and customs entity; free movement of all capital and goods between emirates is guaranteed; all inter-emirate taxes, duties and tolls are abolished
    5. Article 12 — Foreign policy will be to support Arab and Islamic causes and consolidation of friendship and co-operation with all nations on the basis of the charter of the United Nations

Part Two: Fundamental Social and Economic Basis of the Union

    1. Article 14 — Equality, social justice, ensuring safety and security and equality of opportunity for all citizens
    2. Article 15 — The family is the basis of society. It is founded on morality, religion, ethics and patriotism. The law shall guarantee its existence, safeguard and protect it from corruption
    3. Article 17 — Compulsory education at the primary level
    4. Article 21 — Private property will be protected
    5. Article 22 — The protection of public property is the duty of every citizen

Part Three: Freedom, Rights and Public Duties

    1. Article 25 — All persons are equal before the law, without distinction between citizens of the Union in regard to race, nationality, religious belief or social status.
    2. Personal liberty is guaranteed; no person may be arrested, searched, detained or imprisoned except in accordance with the provisions of law
    3. Article 28 — penalty is personal; an accused shall be innocent until proven guilty
    4. Article 29 — freedom of movement is guaranteed, within limits of the law
    5. Article 30 — freedom of expression is guaranteed, within limits of the law
    6. Article 32 — freedom to exercise religious worship is guaranteed in accordance with established customs and provided it does not conflict with public policy or violate public morals
    7. Article 33 — freedom of assembly is guaranteed, within limits of the law

Part Four: Union Authorities

    1. Article 45 — establishes the Supreme Council of the Union (SCN), the Council of Ministers, the National Assembly and the Judiciary of the Union
    2. Article 49 — veto rights in the Supreme Council for Abu Dhabi and Dubai
    3. National Assembly composition: 8 seats each of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, 6 each for Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah, and 4 each for Ajman, Umm al Quwain and Fujairah
    4. Article 108 — The President is required to confirm all death sentences imposed by a Union judicial authority

Part Five: Union Legislation and Decrees and the Authorities having Jurisdiction therein

Part Six: The Emirates

    1. Article 123 — the emirates may retain their individual memberships to OPEC

Part Seven

Part Eight: Financial Affairs of the Union

Part Nine: Armed Forces and Security Forces

    1. Article 137 — Any attack on one emirate is an attack on all emirates and upon the existence of the Union
    2. Article 138 — establishment of a unified air force, navy and land army

Part Ten: Final and Transitional Provisions

    1. Article 145 — Constitution cannot be suspended except when martial law is in effect


  1. ^ DUBAI - Historical Background Of Al Maktoum Family. APS Review Gas Market Trends. June 24, 2002
  2. ^ a b UAE Constitution.


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