Amnesty says children and justice must come first in Pearce case

By staff writers
April 29, 2009

Amnesty International has welcomed news that Marnie Pearce, a British woman jailed in Dubai for adultery, has been released. But it says that the decision to deny her custody of her children must be reversed.

A spokesperson for Dubai Central Jail said Marnie Pearce, aged 40, who believes she was set up by her ex-partner, was released at around 9am yesterday, after serving 68 days of her three-month sentence.

An order to deport Ms Pearce has been suspended, the spokesperson said. “She has been released but her passport is being held."

Along with other human rights groups, Amnesty supported Marnie Pearce's case from the outset and repeatedly called for her unconditional release.

But the organisation continues to urge that the best interests of her two sons, aged four and eight, must be the primary consideration in any final decision over custody.

This is a requirement of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the United Arab Emirates is a party, AI points out.

Amnesty International's UK Campaigns Director, Tim Hancock said: "It's welcome news that Marnie Pearce has been released. She should never have been imprisoned in the first place. But her release is far from the end of this story. Marnie's suffering will continue as she cannot yet see her sons and she does not know if she will be able to see them again."

He added: "We understand that the deportation order has been suspended to allow Marnie time to apply for access to her children. But she should be allowed to challenge the previous decision to deny her custody - the authorities must ensure that she gets a fair hearing in which the views of the children and both parents are fairly represented without discrimination.

"There are allegations, that there was violence within the marriage and that Marnie had to flee to a refuge, which were not raised at the initial custody hearing. Now that issue has come to light there should be a thorough investigation into it and its possible impact on the children.

"Any decision on custody of the children must be based on the children's best interests and there are serious concerns that their rights have not been respected in this case. The future of these two boys should not be decided on the basis of an adultery conviction, one which Marnie Pearce has always disputed," said Hancock.

Amnesty underlined that the children have the right to be consulted and express an opinion on what happens to them, according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. An advocate should be appointed to give them a fair opportunity to express themselves.

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