Exploring UAE Courts: Diverse Range of Legal Mechanisms for Effective Dispute Resolution

Traditional proceedings and alternative dispute resolution methods play vital role in UAE’s legal landscape

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Pavitra Shetty

Published on April 11, 2024, 12:02:54


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The judicial system in the United Arab Emirates operates at two levels: federal and local. Each Emirate manages its own courts and judicial departments at the local level, while the federal level oversees courts and departments across the UAE.

Jurisdiction Law of the UAE

Jurisdiction in the United Arab Emirates follows a civil law system, with statutes serving as the primary legal foundation. Under Article 20 of Federal Law No. 11/1992 on the Civil Procedures Code (CPC), UAE Courts have the authority to adjudicate claims involving both UAE citizens and foreign residents within the country.

Court System

The court system comprises three main levels:

  • Court of First Instance (at both federal and local levels) where cases are initially heard.
  • Court of Appeal (at both federal and local levels) where individuals dissatisfied with decisions from the Court of First Instance can appeal.
  • Federal Supreme Court (at the federal level) holds the highest authority in the UAE's judiciary.
  • The Court of Cassation (at the local level of Emirates with autonomous judicial departments) serves as the highest court within each Emirate. Decisions from the Court of First Instance can be appealed to the Court of Appeal, and subsequently to the Cassation Court or the Federal Supreme Court under limited grounds.

According to Article 104 of the UAE Constitution, local judiciary bodies in each Emirate have jurisdiction over matters not assigned to the federal judiciary. Emirates like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al-Khaimah have their own local court systems, while Sharjah, Fujairah, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain are part of the federal court system.

Specialised Courts

Specialised Courts include:

  • Labour Courts: Handle work-related disputes.
  • Family Courts: Deal with family matters.
  • Commercial Courts: Address business disagreements.
  • Criminal Courts: Handle criminal cases.
  • Sharia Courts: Adjudicate matters related to personal status based on Islamic law.
  • Judicial Circuits
    The court system is further organised into judicial circuits based on specialisation and jurisdiction. Each level of court comprises circuits handling various case types, including personal status, civil, criminal, commercial, labour and real estate matters. These circuits are presided over by a president and supported by judges and administrative personnel.
  • Minor Circuits: Consisting of a single judge, minor circuits adjudicate civil, commercial and labour cases with values not exceeding Dh500,000. They also handle certain personal status matters and claims related to wages and salaries.
  • Major Circuits: Comprising three judges, major circuits have jurisdiction over a broader range of cases, including civil, commercial and labour disputes not falling within the purview of minor circuits. They also handle administrative, real estate, bankruptcy and preventive composition lawsuits.

Common Law Courts

  • Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts: Established in 2006, the DIFC Courts operate as an independent English-language common law judiciary. Their jurisdiction extends to civil and commercial disputes at a national, regional, and global level.
  • Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) Courts: Established by Abu Dhabi Law No (4) of 2013, the ADGM Courts adopt common law principles, making ADGM the first jurisdiction in the Middle East to do so.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

  • Arbitration: Various arbitration centers provide dispute resolution services.
  • Mediation: Mediation services are available for employment disputes and other civil matters.

UAE Court Language

Effective January 2nd, 2023, UAE mainland courts have officially recognised English as a second language, in addition to Arabic, in judicial proceedings outlined in Federal Decree-Law No. 42 of 2022, also known as The New Civil Procedures Law.

Overall, the UAE offers a diverse range of legal mechanisms to address disputes effectively, with both traditional court proceedings and alternative dispute resolution methods playing vital roles in the country's legal landscape. The UAE judicial system aims to efficiently resolve matters while ensuring practical justice for its people

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