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Legal framework

National arbitration laws

What legislation applies to arbitration in your jurisdiction?

The arbitration law of the United Arab Emirates is set out in the UAE Civil Procedure Law (Federal Law 11/1992). The main provisions on arbitration are:

  • Articles 203 to 218;
  • Articles 235 to 238; and
  • Articles 239 to 243.

Mandatory laws

Are there any mandatory laws?

The arbitration provisions of the UAE Civil Procedure Law are mandatory, in the sense that they govern all arbitrations with a seat in any part of the United Arab Emirates excluding the Dubai International Financial Centre and the Abu Dhabi Global Market. The UAE Civil Procedure Law does not prohibit the parties from choosing to make use of institutional or ad hoc rules of arbitration. However, where any provision of the UAE Civil Procedure Law is non-derogable, that provision will prevail over any inconsistent provision of the arbitration rules adopted by the parties.

New York Convention

Is your country a signatory to the New York Convention? If so, what is the date of entry into force?

The United Arab Emirates acceded to the New York Convention, pursuant to Federal Decree 43/2006.  

Are there any reservations to the general obligations of the convention?

No.

Treaties and conventions

What other treaties and conventions in relation to arbitration is your jurisdiction party to?

The United Arab Emirates has ratified the following conventions:

  • the 1965 Washington Convention on the Settlement of Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States, in 1982;
  • the 1987 Gulf Cooperation Council for the Execution of Judgments, Delegations and Judicial Notifications, in 1996;
  • the 1983 Riyadh Convention on Judicial Cooperation between States of the Arab League, in 1999; and
  • the 1907 Hague Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, in 2008.

The United Arab Emirates has entered into the following bilateral treaties relating to judicial cooperation and arbitration:

  • United Kingdom and Northern Ireland – the Treaty on Judicial Assistance in Civil and Commercial Issues (2007);
  • Morocco – the Treaty on Judicial Cooperation in Civil, Commercial and Personal Matters (2006);
  • Sudan – the Treaty on Cooperation in Civil, Commercial and Personal Matters; the Treaty on Service of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents, Obtaining Evidence, Commissions and the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments and Arbitral Awards (2005);
  • Syria – the Agreement on Legal and Judicial Cooperation (2002);
  • Egypt – the Agreement on Legal and Judicial Cooperation (2000);
  • Jordan – the Agreement on Legal and Judicial Cooperation (1999);
  • France – the Treaty on Judicial Cooperation, Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters (1992);
  • Somalia – the Agreement on Legal and Judicial Cooperation (1972);
  • India – the Agreement on Juridical and Judicial Cooperation in Civil and Commercial Matters for the Service of Summons, Judicial Documents, Judicial Commissions, Execution of Judgments and Arbitral Awards (2000); and
  • Tunisia – the Agreement on Judicial Cooperation and Enforcement of Judgments (1975).

The United Arab Emirates has entered into 50 bilateral investment treaties 34 of which are in force. A list of the UAE bilateral investment treaties can be found at: http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/IIA/CountryBits/220#iiaInnerMenu.

UNCITRAL

Has your jurisdiction adopted the UNCITRAL Model Law?

No.

Reform

Are there any impending plans to reform the arbitration laws in your jurisdiction?

A number of draft federal arbitration laws have been released for public consultation over the last 12 years. The most recent was released in February 2013. This version is based on the UNCITRAL Model Law, but retains some provisions of the UAE Civil Procedure Law. There has been no further action in respect of this draft law. 

Arbitration agreements

Validity

What are the validity requirements for an arbitration agreement?

Article 203(2) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law provides that an arbitration agreement must be in writing.

Article 203(3) provides that the subject matter of the dispute must be defined either in the arbitration agreement or during the course of the proceedings.

Article 203(4) states that a party’s representative who signs an arbitration agreement must be granted specific authority in order to create a valid and binding arbitration agreement.   

Enforcement of agreements

How are arbitration agreements enforced in your jurisdiction? What is the attitude of the national courts towards arbitration agreements?

Arbitration agreements are enforced in accordance with Article 203 of the UAE Civil Procedure Law. Article 203(5) provides that if the parties agree to arbitrate the dispute, they cannot bring an action in respect of the same dispute before the national courts. Article 203(5) also states that where one of the parties initiates litigation without regard for an arbitration agreement, unless the other party objects at the first hearing, the arbitration agreement will be deemed to be cancelled. 

The UAE courts generally enforce arbitration agreements if there is evidence of a clear intention between the parties to be bound by arbitration. 

Consolidation

Can an arbitral tribunal with its seat in your jurisdiction consolidate separate arbitral proceedings under one or more contracts, and, if so, in what circumstances?

No. Tribunals do not have express powers to consolidate separate arbitration proceedings under the UAE Civil Procedure Law.  

Choice of law

How is the substantive law of the dispute determined? Where the substantive law is unclear, how will a tribunal determine what it should be?

The parties to a dispute are expected to agree on the substantive law to be applied to the dispute. 

The UAE Civil Procedure Law does not address the situation where the parties have failed to agree on the substantive law. 

Separability

Are there any provisions on the separability of arbitration agreements?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law includes no express reference to the separability of arbitration agreements. The doctrine of separability is generally recognised by the UAE courts. 

Multiparty agreements

Are multiparty agreements recognised?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law includes no provisions on multi-party agreements. 

Arbitral tribunal

Criteria for arbitrators

Are there any restrictions?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law contains no mandatory requirements as to the gender, nationality, residency, religion or professional qualifications of arbitrators.

Article 206(1) states that a minor, person with a legal disability, person deprived of his or her civil rights by reason of a criminal penalty or someone who is bankrupt cannot be an arbitrator.

Articles 114 and 115 of the UAE Civil Procedure Law apply to judges (and arbitrators pursuant to Article 207(4)) and prohibit those who may be assumed to lack impartiality and independence from hearing disputes, including those who:

  • are related by blood or marriage to a party or a party’s guardian, trustee, legal representative, director or manager, where such director or manager has a personal interest in the outcome;
  • are engaged in litigation with the party; 
  • are the legal adviser, trustee or beneficiary of a party;
  • are a former legal adviser to a party;
  • are interested in the outcome of the dispute or related to some other interested party; or
  • have previously been appointed as arbitrator by a party.  

Contractual stipulations

What can be stipulated about the tribunal in the agreement?

The parties are at liberty to stipulate their own requirements for the appointment of arbitrators. 

Default requirements

Are there any default legal requirements as to the selection of a tribunal - for example, concerning the number of arbitrators or their characteristics?

Under Article 206(2) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law, there must be an odd number of arbitrators. Under Article 206(1), an arbitrator must not be a minor, have a criminal conviction, have been declared bankrupt or be legally incapacitated. 

Challenging the appointment of an arbitrator

Can the appointment of an arbitrator be challenged? Can an arbitrator be disqualified? What is the procedure for this?

A party may challenge an arbitrator after his appointment if it has grounds to believe that the arbitrator is “unfit” to issue an award (Article 207(4) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law), or if the arbitrator has deliberately failed to act in accordance with the arbitration agreement (Article 207(3)).

An arbitrator can be disqualified for contravening the requirements set out in Article 207(3) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law, or where the arbitrator has deliberately failed to act in accordance with the arbitration agreement despite the matter having been brought to his attention in writing. Under Article 207(4), an arbitrator may also be disqualified where an application for recusal of the arbitrator has been made for the same reasons that a judge may be recused. 

A party’s application to remove an arbitrator under Article 207(4) must be made within five days of either the arbitrator’s appointment or the date on which the grounds for dismissal became known. The rules of a number of arbitration institutions in the United Arab Emirates provide for a period of longer than five days in this regard. 

Jurisdictional objections

How should an objection to jurisdiction be raised?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law does not specifically address jurisdictional challenges arising during the course of an arbitration; however, the doctrine of competence-competence is generally recognised. Under Article 216(1) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law, a party aggrieved by a tribunal’s decision on jurisdiction may contest that decision only through an application to annul the final award made either separately or in response to an application to ratify the award. 

Replacement of an arbitrator

Why and how can an arbitrator be replaced?

Article 204(1) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law provides that where an arbitrator is removed or rejected, the court with the original jurisdiction to try the dispute shall, upon the application of one of the parties, appoint the necessary arbitrators.  

Article 207(3) provides that where an arbitrator has failed to act in accordance with the arbitration agreement, despite having been notified of such failure, the court may, on application by one of the parties, discharge the arbitrator and appoint a substitute. Article 207(3) also allows an arbitrator to be dismissed with the consent of all of the parties.

Article 207(4) provides that an arbitrator may be recused from issuing an award for reasons that have become apparent after his appointment. The application for recusal may be made by either party to the court with the original jurisdiction to try the dispute.

Articles 114 and 115 apply to judges and arbitrators, and prohibit anyone who may be assumed to lack impartiality and independence from hearing disputes - including those who:

  • are related by blood or marriage to a party or a party’s guardian, trustee, legal representative, director or manager where such director or manager has a personal interest in the outcome;
  • are engaged in litigation with the party;
  • are the legal adviser, trustee or beneficiary of a party;
  • are a former legal adviser to a party;
  • are interested in the outcome of the dispute or related to some other interested party; or
  • have previously been appointed as arbitrator by a party.  

Powers and obligations

What powers and obligations do arbitrators have?

Article 209(2) states that an arbitrator must suspend his or her function until the passing of a judgment in respect of any preliminary issue outside the scope of the arbitrator’s power or a challenge based on forgery or another criminal act. Further, the arbitrator may seek court assistance to obtain documentary and witness evidence letters rogatory.

Article 210 provides that if the arbitration agreement does not stipulate a time limit, the arbitrator must pass a judgment within six months of the first hearing. This may be extended if so agreed by the parties.

Article 211 states that the arbitrators must administer the oath to witnesses.

Article 212(2) provides that the arbitral award must follow the rules of law, unless the arbitrators are authorised to effect a compromise, in which case they will not be bound by such rules, save insofar as they relate to public policy.

Article 212(4) provides that awards must be issued in the United Arab Emirates, failing which the rules on foreign arbitral awards will apply.

Article 212(5) states that awards must be issued by a majority, signed by the arbitrators, made in writing and include:

  • any dissenting opinions;
  • a copy of the arbitration agreement;
  • a summary of the parties’ statements and documents;
  • the reasons for the award and the order made; and
  • the date of issue.

Article 212(6) provides that all awards must be in Arabic, unless the parties agree otherwise.

Liability of arbitrators

Are arbitrators immune from liability?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law contains no provisions which state that arbitrators are immune from liability. However, a change to the UAE Penal Code was introduced in 2016. Article 257 of the UAE Penal Code (Federal Law 3/1987, as amended by Federal Law 7/2016) specifically provides for criminal liability of arbitrators:

An expert, arbitrator or translator or investigator who is appointed by a judicial or an administrative authority or elected by the parties, and who knowingly issues a decision or expresses an opinion or submits a report or presents a cause or proves an incident, in favour of a person or against him, contrary to the duty of fairness and unbiasedness, shall be punished by temporary imprisonment.

The aforementioned categories shall be precluded from performing the duties they were charged with in the first instance in the future, and shall be subject to the provisions of Article 255 of this Law” (unofficial translation from the Arabic original.)

Communicating with the tribunal

How do the parties communicate with the tribunal?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law contains no express provisions on how the parties are to communicate with the tribunal.

In practice, the parties will communicate with the tribunal in writing, with copies sent to all parties and to the administrative institution, as the case may be. Meetings with the tribunal may take place in person or via any means of telecommunication, including video-link. 

Reaching decisions

Is unanimous agreement of the tribunal required? If there is disagreement, does the will of the majority suffice? What are the implications of this?

There is no requirement under the UAE Civil Procedure Law for tribunal decisions to be unanimous. In the event of disagreement, the majority opinion will prevail (Article 212(5)). 

Arbitrability

Are there any disputes incapable of being referred to arbitration?

Article 203(4) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law provides that matters in which conciliation is not permissible cannot be arbitrated. 

Can the arbitrability of a dispute be challenged?

Where it is alleged that court proceedings have been commenced in breach of an agreement to arbitrate, the courts will determine whether there is a valid arbitration agreement.

Challenges to jurisdiction are most commonly heard by the courts on applications to set aside awards.

Jurisdiction and competence-competence

Is the principle of competence-competence recognised in your jurisdiction? Can a party to an arbitration ask the courts to determine an issue relating to the tribunal’s jurisdiction and competence?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law includes no provisions on the principle of competence-competence. In practice, however, the principle of competence-competence is recognised.

Where it is alleged that court proceedings have been commenced in breach of an agreement to arbitrate, the courts will determine whether there is a valid arbitration agreement.

Challenges to jurisdiction are most commonly heard by the courts on applications to set aside awards.

Arbitral proceedings

Starting an arbitration proceeding

What is needed to commence arbitration?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law sets out no directions as to the commencement of arbitration proceedings. Typically, arbitration commences with a request for arbitration. 

Limitation periods

Are there any limitation periods for the commencement of arbitration?

No such limitation periods are included in the arbitration provisions of the UAE Civil Procedure Law.  

Procedural rules

Are there any procedural rules that arbitrators must follow?

In the United Arab Emirates, arbitrators must follow the procedural rules selected by the parties. Where the parties have not agreed on procedural rules or where the relevant procedural rules are silent on any particular matter, the tribunal may, subject to the provisions of the UAE Civil Procedure Law, conduct the arbitration in such manner as it sees fit. 

Dissenting arbitrators

Are dissenting opinions permitted under the law of your jurisdiction?

There are no provisions under the UAE Civil Procedure Law which prohibit arbitrators from issuing dissenting opinions. Pursuant to Article 212(5), arbitral awards must be issued in writing by a majority, together with any dissenting opinion.

Judicial assistance

Can local courts intervene in proceedings?

Pursuant to Article 209(1) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law, arbitral proceedings will be interrupted if any of the reasons for interruption set out in the UAE Civil Procedure Law apply. Such interruption will have the same effects as those laid down by law, unless the action has been reserved for judgment.

Under Article 209(2) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law, if during the course of an arbitration a preliminary issue is submitted that falls outside the scope of the arbitrator’s power, there is a challenge based on forgery of a document or criminal proceedings have been initiated, the arbitrator must suspend his or her function until the court has passed a final judgment.

Under Articles 209(2)(a) to (c) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law, an arbitrator is entitled to seek the assistance of the local courts to:

  • request a penalty in respect of a witness who fails to attend or refuses to answer questions (Article 209(2)(a));
  • order a third party to produce a document in his possession which is  necessary for judgment in the arbitration (Article 209(2)(b)); and
  • order judicial letters rogatory (Article 209(2)(c)).

The arbitration proceedings are stayed pending the outcome of these applications to the court. 

Can the local courts assist in choosing arbitrators?

If the parties fail to agree on the number or identity of the arbitrators, the UAE courts are tasked with making the appointments, which will be final and cannot be appealed (Article 204(2) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law).

What is the applicable law (and prevailing practice) where a respondent fails to participate in an arbitration? Can the courts compel parties to arbitrate? Can they issue subpoenas to third parties?

Article 208(2) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law provides that an award can be issued on the basis of one party alone participating in the proceedings, if the other party fails to do so within the specified timeframe. 

The provisions of the UAE Civil Procedure Law concerning arbitration contain no express provisions allowing courts to issue subpoenas to third parties.

Article 209(2)(a) provides that if a witness fails to attend or refuses to answer questions, the court can order a penalty against that witness.Pursuant to Article 209(2)(b), a court may order a third party to produce a document in its possession if necessary for the purposes of judgment. Where a tribunal requests the attendance of a witness who is outside the territory of the United Arab Emirates, Article 209(2)(c) empowers the court to make an order for judicial letters rogatory. 

Third parties

In what instances can third parties be bound by an arbitration agreement or award?

There are no express provisions in the UAE Civil Procedure Law which allow third parties to be joined to arbitration proceedings or be bound by arbitration awards. 

Default language and seat

Unless agreed by the parties, what is the default language and location for arbitrations?

Article 212(4) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law provides that the arbitral award shall be issued in the United Arab Emirates; otherwise, the rules in respect of foreign arbitral awards shall apply. Where the tribunal has failed to specify otherwise, the default location for the arbitration will be the United Arab Emirates.

Article 212(6) provides that the award shall be written in Arabic, unless the parties agree otherwise. 

Gathering evidence

How is evidence obtained by the tribunal?

Article 212(1) states that arbitrators are not bound by the procedural rules set out in the UAE Civil Procedural Law, except those contained in Chapter 3. Further, arbitrators are not bound by the procedures relating to:

  • the summoning of parties;
  • the hearing of arguments; and
  • the submission of documents.

It is permissible for the parties to agree on specific procedures for the arbitrator to follow.

Generally, arbitrations are conducted in accordance with institutional arbitration rules, rules as agreed by the parties or rules decided by the arbitrators. Evidence takes the form of documents and direct sworn testimony given at one or more hearings. Witness statements cannot stand as evidence, unless the witness is first presented to the tribunal for examination under oath. Extensive use is made of tribunal and party-appointed experts. Officers and parties may be allowed to testify. Disclosure of documents may be limited or extensive, at the discretion of the tribunal. 

What kinds of evidence are acceptable?

The concept of ‘without prejudice’ is not recognised under UAE law and documents so marked may be adduced in evidence unless the parties have entered into a confidentiality agreement in respect of such correspondence. 

Confidentiality

Is confidentiality ensured?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law does not refer to confidentiality. 

Can information in arbitral proceedings be disclosed in subsequent proceedings?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law contains no provisions regarding the disclosure of information in arbitration proceedings in subsequent proceedings.  

Ethical codes

What ethical codes and other professional standards, if any, apply to counsel and arbitrators conducting proceedings in your jurisdiction?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law does not refer to any ethical codes for arbitrators or counsel. The Government of Dubai Legal Affairs Department issued a draft Charter for the Conduct of Advocates and Legal Consultants in the Emirate of Dubai in 2015; however, at the time of writing it remains in draft form.

In practice, counsel and arbitrators will be bound by the ethical codes of their professional bodies. 

Costs

Estimation & allocation

How are the costs of arbitration proceedings estimated and allocated?

Under Article 218 of the UAE Civil Procedure Law, arbitrators have a general discretion as to costs. They are specifically authorised to order that the losing party bear the entire costs of the arbitration. Costs can include legal fees, arbitrators’ fees and other expenses, such as hearing rooms and transcription services.

Recent case law suggests that for the tribunal to have the power to award a party’s legal costs, explicit wording to that effect should be included in the arbitration agreement (or in the institutional arbitration rules selected by the parties).

Security for costs

Can the national court or tribunal order security for costs under the law in your jurisdiction?

The UAE courts do not generally make orders for security for costs.

The UAE Civil Procedure Law contains no provisions which specifically empower or prohibit a tribunal to make an order for security of costs.

The award

Requirements

What legal requirements are there for recognition of an award? Must reasons be given for the award? Does the award need to be reviewed by any other body?

Pursuant to Article 215(1) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law, an arbitral award may not be enforced unless it has been ratified by the court, provided that the court has reviewed the award and ascertained that the award contains no obstacles to enforcement.

Article 212(5) provides that the arbitrators’ award shall include the reasons for the award and the order made.  

Timeframe for delivery

Are there any time limits on delivery of the award?

Under Article 210(1) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law, unless the parties agree otherwise, the tribunal is required to pass judgment within six months of the date of the first arbitration hearing.    

Remedies

Does the law impose limits on the available remedies? Are some remedies not enforceable by the court?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law does not impose any limits on the remedies available to the parties. 

What interim measures are available? Will local courts issue interim measures pending constitution of the tribunal?

Under the UAE Civil Procedure Law, tribunals do not have inherent powers to order interim measures. By agreement between the parties, the tribunal may be empowered to order interim measures.

Article 22 of the UAE Civil Procedure Law provides that the court has the power to issue both preliminary and interim precautionary orders, even where it does not have jurisdiction in the primary action.

Article 29 specifically provides that a party may apply to the summary proceedings judge or court for chattels, real property or other assets to be placed under the protection of the court, provided that it can show good cause to fear immediate danger to the assets if they remain in the hands of the party in possession.

Under Article 159, an appeal against any such order must be brought within 10 days.

Under Articles 252 to 254, the summary proceedings judge may order the attachment and preservation of assets. Article 255(2) provides that where a summary order has been obtained, proceedings to finally establish the claimant’s entitlement must be commenced within eight days thereof. 

Interest

Can interest be awarded?

Interest can be awarded under Articles 76, 88 and 90 of the Commercial Transactions Law (Federal Law 18/1993). Pursuant to Article 88, interest may be awarded only if the debt is known. Under Article 90, interest will be accrued from the maturity date of such debts, unless it is otherwise provided for by law or agreement.

At what rate?

Article 76 provides that where the parties have failed to agree on a rate of interest, the rate shall be calculated according to the current rate of interest in the market, provided that this does not exceed 12%. In practice, the courts have typically awarded 9%.

Finality

Is the award final and binding?

Yes, if accepted by the court. According to Article 215(1) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law, the award shall not be enforced unless it is ratified by the court, which will consider any obstacles to enforcement and has jurisdiction to rectify any material errors in the award.

According to Article 217(1) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law, parties are not permitted to appeal an arbitral award. 

What if there are any mistakes?

Article 214 of the UAE Civil Procedure Law provides that when considering whether to ratify an award, the court may remit the award to the arbitrators so that they may consider any issues which have been omitted or clarify any issues which are insufficiently specific for the purposes of enforcement.

Under Article 215 (applying Article 137), the court has the power to correct computational, clerical, typographical or other errors in the award either of its own motion or on the application of one of the parties.

Institutional arbitration rules may also grant arbitrators certain powers to correct and amend arbitral awards. 

Can the parties exclude by agreement any right of appeal or other recourse that the law of your jurisdiction may provide?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law does not specifically allow or prohibit the parties from excluding their rights to recourse against the award. 

Appeal

What is the procedure for challenging awards?

Under Articles 216(1)(a) to (c), an aggrieved party may invite the court to annul the final award when it comes before it for ratification. Applications to annul and to ratify an award are made by the commencement of an ordinary action in the court of first instance. The fees to be paid and the procedure to be followed in the court of first instance are the same as those for any other action. The courts will annul the award if:

  • the award was issued in the absence of an arbitration agreement;
  • the arbitration agreement was invalid or had expired through prescription;
  • the tribunal exceeded its jurisdiction;
  • there was a defect in the method by which the arbitrators were appointed;
  • without authority, the award was issued by some of the arbitrators in the absence of others;
  • the award was issued pursuant to an arbitration agreement that failed to identify the dispute;
  • a party to the arbitration agreement lacked competence to agree to arbitration;
  • an arbitrator was not qualified to act according to the minimum requirements of the law of the seat or the terms of the arbitration agreement; or
  • the award or the procedure adopted by the tribunal is tainted by invalidity. 

On what grounds can parties appeal an award?

The parties are not permitted to appeal an award (Article 217(1) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law), although they can challenge ratification or resist enforcement (Article 216(1) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law). 

Enforcement

What steps can be taken to enforce the award if there is a failure to comply?

After receiving an execution judgment, the UAE courts will notify the award debtor of the requirement to make payment within 15 days. If such payment is not made, the execution judge can order forcible measures to ensure payment, with the assistance of the court bailiffs. 

Can awards be enforced in local courts?

Yes. 

How enforceable is the award internationally?

Arbitral awards issued in the United Arab Emirates are generally enforceable internationally, particularly in New York Convention signatory states. The United Arab Emirates also maintains bilateral agreements on the reciprocal enforcement of judgments and arbitral awards with certain states. 

To what extent might a state or state entity successfully raise a defence of state or sovereign immunity at the enforcement stage?

Under Article 247(1) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law, public and private properties owned by the United Arab Emirates or any of its constitutive emirates are immune from attachment to debt or seizure. It is unlikely that the UAE courts will enforce awards where debts are due from the UAE government or government-owned entities, even if the award or judgment is in favour of a party which has a signed sovereign immunity waiver from the government or government-owned entity.

Are there any other bases on which an award may be challenged, and if so, by what?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law provides no additional grounds under which an award may be challenged. 

How enforceable are foreign arbitral awards in your jurisdiction?

Generally speaking, final awards which are not subject to challenge in the jurisdiction of the seat of the arbitration are enforceable by the UAE courts, particularly if the award is issued in a New York Convention signatory state. Before the United Arab Emirates acceding to the New York Convention, it had no substantial track record of enforcing foreign arbitral awards.

Will an award that has been set aside by the courts in the seat of arbitration be enforced in your jurisdiction?

The UAE courts may refuse to enforce an award that has been set aside by the courts in the seat of arbitration on the basis of Article V(1)(e) of the New York Convention. 

Article 235(2)(d) of the UAE Civil Procedure Law requires an award to be final and unchallengeable in the jurisdiction of its seat in order to be capable of enforcement in the United Arab Emirates. 

Third-party funding

Rules and restrictions

Are there rules or restrictions on third-party funders?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law contains no provisions on third-party funding. 

Class-action or group arbitration

Concept

Is there a concept in your jurisdiction providing for class-action arbitration or group arbitration? If so, are there any limitations to the arbitrability of such claims or requirements that must be met before such claims may be arbitrated?

The UAE Civil Procedure Law contains no provisions on class-action arbitration or group arbitration. 

Hot topics

Emerging trends

Are there any hot topics or trends emerging in arbitration in your jurisdiction?

Dubai Decree 19/2016 concerning the establishment of a judicial tribunal for the Dubai Courts and DIFC Courts
On June 9 2016 HH Ruler of Dubai issued Dubai Decree 19/2016 “concerning the establishment of a Judicial Tribunal for the Dubai Courts and DIFC Courts”.  

Article 1 of the decree establishes a judicial tribunal, comprised of four members drawn from the Dubai courts and three members drawn from the DIFC courts. Pursuant to Article 2 of the decree, the judicial tribunal has the power to rule on conflicts of jurisdiction and conflicting judgments between the DIFC courts and the Dubai courts. It may also propose rules and regulations and opine on matters that relate to cooperation and coordination between the Dubai and DIFC courts.

An application to refer a dispute to the judicial tribunal may be submitted by either party or the Attorney General of Dubai (Article 4(1) of the decree). The applicant must submit a copy of the applications or submissions made to the courts or the contradicting judgments (Article 4(2) of the decree). The judicial tribunal will then make a decision based on the application in accordance with the laws in force and applicable rules of jurisdiction (Article 4(3) of the decree). Applications under the decree will result in a stay of the underlying proceedings or execution of a judgment until a decision is handed down by the judicial tribunal (Article 5 of the decree). Time limits and limitation periods under the law will be suspended from the date of the application (Article 6 of the decree). The judicial tribunal must hand down its final decision within no more than 30 working days from the date of the application (Article 3(b) of the decree). Such decision must be reasoned (Article 3(e) of the decree) and will be final and binding (Article 7 of the decree). Article 8 of the decree states that it will come into force from the date of issuance; however, at the time of writing, the decree has yet to be published in the Dubai Official Gazette.

There is currently no official commentary or guidance to clarify certain procedural issues (eg, language, service and submissions) and whether the decree will apply retrospectively and how it will sit among the UAE federal laws, DIFC laws and the UAE Constitution.

The decree was first referred to in the DIFC Court case Oger Dubai LLC v Daman Real Estate Capital Partners Limited, CFI 013/2016. In Oger a winding up order was stayed on June 30 2016 until a decision is taken by the judicial tribunal as to the competent court. The petition was presented approximately three months before the decree was formally issued. At the time of writing, there are reportedly seven applications pending before the judicial tribunal.

Abu Dhabi Global Market Arbitration Regulations 2015
The Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM)  enacted a set of new arbitration regulations on December 302015. These govern the conduct of arbitrations seated in the ADGM, together with the enforcement of arbitral awards.

Unlike most of the law that is applicable in the ADGM, the regulations do not adopt the equivalent English statute, nor are they based on English common-law principles. Instead the regulations are largely based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law. There are a number of modifications to the UNCITRAL Model Law, the most significant of which are as follows:

  • Confidentiality (Article 40 of the regulations) – the regulations provide for confidentially of the award and any information relating to the arbitral proceedings by default, with only limited grounds on which disclosure to a third party will be permissible.
  • Joinder of third parties (Article 36) – the arbitral institution or court may, on the request of a party to the arbitral proceedings and if it considers that it is in the interests of justice to do so, allow one or more parties to be joined, provided that such person is a party to the arbitration agreement or has consented to joinder in writing.
  • Waiver of right to set aside actions (Article 54) – in a significant departure from the UNCITRAL Model Law, the regulations provide that the parties may waive the right to bring an action for setting aside or limit that right only to certain grounds.