Dubai ‘Pardons’ Rape Victim Sentenced To 16 Months For Extramarital Sex

Jul 22, 2013
Crime
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Marte Dalelv was told she can leave UAE after case dropped, but rights groups warn of Gulf state’s attitude to sexual violence.

A Norwegian woman who was given a prison sentence for extramarital sex after she had reported being raped while on a visit to Dubai has been pardoned and told she is free to leave the country.

Marte Deborah Dalelv, 24, had been awaiting the hearing of an appeal against the 16-month sentence, handed down this month after a court in the Gulf emirate found her guilty of having sex outside marriage, drinking and making false statements.

She was told on Sunday that officials had dropped the case, and her passport was returned. “I have my life back,” Dalelv told the Associated Press. “This is a great day.”

The sentence against Dalelv has caused widespread outrage in the west and highlighted the frequent clash between Dubai’s western-friendly image and its Islamic legal code, or sharia law.

Dalelv alleged that she was raped in March by a colleague, but was charged with having sex outside marriage after going to the police.

In an interview with AP last week, she recalled that she fled to the hotel lobby and asked for the police to be called after the alleged attack. The hotel staff asked if she was sure she wanted to involve the police, Dalelv said.

“Of course I want to call the police,” she said. “That is the natural reaction where I am from.”

She said she was held in custody for four days before being able to contact her stepfather in Norway.

Her decision to go public about the sentence last week in a series of interviews appeared to put pressure on authorities in Dubai and tarnished the city’s reputation as a cosmopolitan hub, including threatening its high-profile bid for the 2020 World Expo.

Espen Barth Eide, the Norwegian foreign minister, posted a message on Twitter: “Marte is released! Thanks to everyone who signed up to help.”

Barth Eide told the Norwegian news agency NTB that international media attention and Norway’s diplomatic pressure helped Dalelv, who was freed pending her appeal.

Norway also reminded the United Arab Emirates of obligations under United Nations accords to investigate fully claims of violence against women.

Marte Dalelv

Marte Dalelv

“The United Arab Emirates and Dubai is a rapidly changing society. This decision won’t only affect Marte Dalelv, who can travel home now if she wishes to, but also serve as a wake-up call regarding the legal situation in many other countries,” Barth Eide was quoted as saying.

It also was unclear whether authorities would keep the 13-month sentence against Dalelv’s alleged attacker, identified as a 33-year-old Sudanese man who was charged with consuming alcohol and sex outside marriage. While alcohol is widely available in Dubai’s hotels and restaurants, public drunkenness can incur serious charges.

In London, a human rights group monitoring UAE affairs urged the authorities to change laws to “ensure victims are protected, feel comfortable reporting crimes and are able to fairly pursue justice”.

Rori Donaghy, a spokesman for the Emirates Centre for Human Rights, said: “While we are pleased that Marte can now return home to Norway, her pardon still suggests that she was somehow guilty of a crime.

“Until laws are reformed, victims of sexual violence in the UAE will continue to suffer in this way and we will likely see more cases such as this one.”

In the UAE, as in some other countries using Islamic law, a rape conviction can require either a confession or the testimony of four adult male witnesses.

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