Thursday, April 25, 2013

25-Apr-13: Karabus and the appeal(s) of the UAE

UAE's ministry of justice [Image Source]
Here are the most recent twists in the Kafkaesque nightmare of the distinguished pediatric oncologist Prof Cyril Karabus.

He has been in enforced detention in Abu Dhabi and Dubai since August 2012, having been convicted a decade earlier of serious charges arising from the death of a terminally ill three year old patient. He was never notified of those charges, nor of the 'trial' or subsequent conviction. He was astonished to be seized by the UAE authorities as he transited through Dubai's glitzy airport en route back to his South African home after a son's wedding in Canada. He is 78 years old, and a highly regarded expert in his field; he is also in poor health. (Click here to see our previous posts on Prof. Karabus' lonely nightmare.)

A UAE newspaper, the Khaleej Times, reports this morning that Prof. Karabus
was cleared by the Abu Dhabi Court of Appeal on Wednesday... The court had adjourned the pronouncement of the verdict to April 29, but the defence lawyer requested the court to speed up issuing the decision due to the health condition of his client.
It's difficult to make sense of what they are saying. The latest phase of the Karabus affair consisted of an appeal by the state against a finding by a court-appointed medical committee on technical/medical issues. The committee's report to the court found that the accused had done nothing wrong. What legal grounds of appeal can there be against a finding of fact like that? There's little point in speculating since no published report has ever stated (as far as we are aware) what the prosecution's grounds of appeal were or are.

The entire history of this sad matter has been like that: the use (or abuse) of some version of law to make it seem like the UAE is a normal place with normal institutions doing perfectly normal things. It's none of the above.

Another UAE news source, the National, illustrates this in a report posted last night.
A second court has cleared Dr Cyril Karabus of manslaughter... The Appeals Court issued its verdict yesterday, five days earlier than scheduled, with the judge explaining this was done at the request of the professor’s legal team, who argued the trial was taking too long and that the doctor needed to travel back to South Africa as soon as possible... But the South African professor must remain in the country while prosecutors decide whether to launch a final appeal... But the paediatric oncologist, 78, faces a further wait of up to 30 days while prosecutors decide whether they will take the case to the Cassation Court... Prosecutors said yesterday they had not decided whether to take the case to the Cassation Court, saying they would study the details of the verdict before deciding whether to do so. A draft of the verdict is yet to be printed... Should they decide to drop the case before the 30-day period is up, he will be then be free to leave the country.
A final appeal? The mind boggles. And defence lawyers claimed the trial was taking too long? The trial included literally dozens of adjournments including many ordered by the court because the prosecution was unable to produce (or find) key documents. It ended with Prof. Karabus' acquittal in March. We wonder whether the writers at the National or the Khaleej Times understand the significance of such details. 

The National's reporter evidently spoke with Prof. Karabus last night, and quotes him:
I was really happy when my lawyer phoned me this morning, thinking it is was all over. Then I read your report saying there could still be an appeal.” He said he had been in contact with his travel agent to arrange a flight home, and was planning to leave on a flight on Saturday. But after reading the article he called his lawyer, who confirmed he needed to wait for the prosecutors’ decision.
The National, in a separate but related story yesterday, puts some useful context around the atrocious way in which the UAE's instruments of power have dealt with the elderly and innocent (reminder: acquitted after trial, vindicated on appeal) oncologist whose passport was seized and held by UAE law enforcement officials since August making it impossible for him to go home. It quotes the UAE's Minister of Justice, Dr Hadif Al Dhaheri, discussing justice:
The minister admitted delays were a problem, but said the ministry was trying to speed matters up to meet international standards. "We are keen to reach this," he said. "To have fast and just cases." Dr Al Dhaheri's comments came amid criticism over repeated delays in the retrial of Cyril Karabus, a South African doctor arrested at Dubai airport in August and cleared in March of the manslaughter of a child he treated. Dr Al Dhaheri said the courts could not treat foreigners and Emiratis differently. "All are in front of the court the same, according to the constitution," he said.
And that's one of the key lessons for those of us far from these events and living in democratic societies. Well-trained bureaucrat/technocrats, like His Excellency Dr Hadef Jouan Al Dhahiri (doctorate from Cambridge; LL.M. from Harvard) serve as vital cogs in a regime in which they administer non-democratic systems of law and governance on behalf of autocratic, absolute hereditary rulers. They cover over the inherent capriciousness of the system's actions through resort to such formulations as "equal before the law", "separation of powers", "independence of the judiciary" and other familiar expressions that conceal the fundamental inequalities and distortions that are at the heart of what happens there. Seven phenomenally rich, absolute monarchies that make up the UAE - essentially family-controlled business empires where Western notions of law, justice, equity and fairness are remote; as Wikipedia points out:
Although secular law is applied, the basis of [UAE] legislation is Sharia (Islamic Law)...
The justice minister is right when he says delays are a problem. But they are a relatively small part of a vast and far deeper problem that goes to the essence of the UAE.

The ongoing nightmare of the abused doctor ought to be a signal to professionals from more advanced and democracy-friendly parts of the world to keep away from oil-soaked Abu Dhabi, Dubai and other UAE kingdom-statelets. But evidently there are reasons why they keep coming.

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