“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

-Nelson Mandela

Free zones in the country have always experienced salient growth due to the flexible and international standards that are exhibited by the concerned authorities. The Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) is an international financial centre, a free zone within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. It has its own civil and commercial laws, and aims to offer market participants a world-class legal system and regulatory regime. The Application of English Law Regulations 2015 provides for the application of English common law in the ADGM. It is intended that, over time, the ADGM will become a recognised international financial centre alongside the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) in Dubai and other regional financial centres. The ADGM Courts support the free zone with an independent common law framework in order to adjudicate civil and commercial disputes. The ADGM Courts are modelled on the English judicial system, and comprise a Court of First Instance and a Court of Appeal. The ADGM Courts will have jurisdiction over civil or commercial disputes involving companies registered in the ADGM and also contracts or transactions conducted in the ADGM.

Over the past few years, an important development which has taken place in the dynamics of the country is the emergence of a new financial center in the capital of the Arab nation. The United Arab Emirates Ministry of Justice (the Ministry) and Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts (ADGM Courts) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on May 16, 2016, concerning a wide range of legal and judicial matters. In particular, they have agreed to take all necessary measures to ensure the enforcement of ADGM Courts’ judgments and ADGM arbitral awards before the Federal Courts in the UAE without examining the substance of the dispute. The main idea behind this MoU is to increase and improve the decision making capacity of the courts in the Abu Dhabi free zone region, so that people can have more faith, trust and confidence in the judicial system of the free zone.

The initiative is expected to elevate the ADGM courts in par with the DIFC courts in order to improve quality of services and to expand the area of services. The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department was established on June 15, 2007 under Law No. 23 of 2006 to ensure the delivery and administration of justice and equality to all citizens and residents throughout the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The Department supervises and coordinates the primary legal and judicial mechanisms and processes that protect individual rights and safeguards the rule of law through a tri-tiered court system which includes the court of cassation, court of appeals and courts of first instance.

The MoU is an important step which would foster and develop the relationship between the Ministry and ADGM Courts. The collaboration will continue to maintain the integrity whilst increasing the confidence in the judicial systems of the UAE. The MoU also covers areas such as exchanging information and research in the fields of electronic services and information technology in order to enhance the efficiency of the respective judicial systems; and developing program initiatives for community awareness and education regarding legal and judicial concepts, particularly in relation to transparency and integrity of the systems.

The relationship that has been formed with the ministry through this MoU is of tremendous significance. It records the strong and enduring commitment to work together to strengthen the community’s confidence in the UAE judicial system, particularly by providing accessible and outstanding service to all litigants and by bolstering judicial cooperation at local, federal, regional and international levels.

A Homogeneous Platform

The memorandum of understanding between Dubai Courts and DIFC Courts was signed in the year 2009. The memorandum consists of three (3) parts and has been drafted in a simply manner. The first part is the introduction part which details about the functioning, duties and powers of Dubai courts and the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

Dubai Courts ensure the administration and delivery of justice and equality for all citizens and residents throughout the Emirate. This has been done through precision and promptness in adjudicating lawsuits, executing judgments, decisions, judicial orders, contract and document authentication, and by relying on qualified national cadres and regulations, procedures, and new developed technology. Dubai Courts also supervise and coordinate the primary legal and judicial mechanisms and processes that protect individual rights and safeguard the rule of law.

Dubai Courts play a vital role in ensuring the supremacy of law and protecting national achievements by embracing values such as justice, equality, ingenuity, excellence, teamwork and independence. The Dubai Courts has incorporated state-of-the-art information technology capabilities in pursuit of modernization and the achievements of its strategic plan’s objectives for the development of Dubai’s judicial and administrative system. Such technologies play a pivotal role in nurturing judges’ staffs’ capabilities, performance improvements, increasing efficiency, simplifying procedures and strengthening the lines of communication among our different strategic stakeholders.

The DIFC Courts were established under Dubai Law No. 9 of 2004 and are the independent and limited judicial system within the DIFC, a financial free zone which was established by Federal Decree No. 35 of 2004 in furtherance to Article 2 of Federal Law No. 8 of 2004. It guarantees the highest standards of legal performance, flexibility and efficiency expected by global institutions. Headed by eminent judges who have varied and extensive experience in different jurisdictions around the world, the DIFC Courts can handle all disputes within its limited jurisdiction. However, this MoU is a statement of intent and does not modify or supersede any laws or regulatory requirements in force in the UAE or any of the concerned free zones. Further, the Memorandum consists of the purpose and principle which portrays that the parties desire and believe that the cooperation facilitated by this MoU will further enhance their mutual goals, vision and mission. Further, the MoU aids in:

  • promoting a mutual understanding of the founding laws, procedures, rules, policies and ambitions;
  • enabling the parties to more effectively discharge their responsibilities in order to provide efficient and independent judicial systems based on excellence that provides a world class judicial service;
  • developing closer ties between the parties;
  • encouraging closer collaboration regarding the questions of jurisdiction, service and execution of mutual judgements;
  • facilitating the development of protocols about all important judicial areas such as the protocol already developed regarding enforcement;
  • facilitating discussions regarding the development of fees for civil and commercial disputes, and reducing double charging for cross-jurisdictional disputes;
  • facilitating discussion about judicial supervision and best practice internationally;
  • identifying areas to collaborate for judicial training, both in the UAE and internationally, including the use of study trips and job shadowing;
  • allowing for the sharing of experiences with regard to the establishment and operation of small claims in a cost effective and efficient manner;

The third and last part of the memorandum talks about commencement and termination of the MoU. This MOU takes effect from the date it is signed by both parties and will continue to have effect until terminated by either of them giving at least 30 days advance written notice to the other with reserving both parties’ rights. It may be amended by written and signed agreement. Neither party will make any public disclosure or issue any press releases pertaining to the existence of this MOU or to the proposed collaboration without the written consent of the other party, such consent to include consent of the content of any such release. Termination of this MOU does not affect obligations under this MOU concerning confidentiality of information, which shall continue to have effect.