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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. 

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