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Arbitral proceedings

Starting an arbitration proceeding

What is needed to commence arbitration?

Article 27(1) of the Federal Arbitration Law states that the arbitration proceedings will commence on the day that follows the constitution of the arbitral tribunal, unless the parties agree otherwise.

Article 27(2) states that the notification of the request for arbitration will be deemed as an act of initiating a lawsuit for the purposes of imposing a precautionary attachment.

Limitation periods

Are there any limitation periods for the commencement of arbitration?

The Federal Arbitration Law contains no provisions on limitation periods for the commencement of arbitration.

If UAE law applies to the parties’ underlying agreement, arbitration proceedings commenced after the applicable limitation period will be time-barred. Under the UAE Civil Code, Federal Law 5/1985, the general limitation period for claims arising under contract is 15 years (Article 473). However, there are exceptions to this general rule – for example, physicians, pharmacists, lawyers, engineers, experts, professors, teachers and brokers have five years to claim any outstanding fees (Article 475).

Procedural rules

Are there any procedural rules that arbitrators must follow?

Under Article 23(1) of the Federal Arbitration Law, parties are free to decide on the procedural rules for the arbitration. In the absence of any agreement by the parties, Article 23(2) states that the arbitral tribunal may decide on the procedures, provided that such procedures do not conflict with the general principles of litigation and the provisions of any international treaties to which the United Arab Emirates is a party (Article 23).

Dissenting arbitrators

Are dissenting opinions permitted under the law of your jurisdiction?

Yes. Under Article 41(2) of the Federal Arbitration Law, dissenting opinions are required to be in writing and attached to the majority decision.

Judicial assistance

Can local courts intervene in proceedings?

Yes. The local courts can intervene in the proceedings in limited circumstances, such as:

  • Article 11 – the court may assist in the process of appointing arbitrators;
  • Article 16 – the parties can request that the court terminate an arbitrator’s appointment where the arbitrator is unable or ceases to perform their mandate;
  • Article 18 – the court may, on the request of any party or the arbitral tribunal, issue an order for precautionary or temporary measures;
  • Article 19(2) – the court may decide the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal if the tribunal has dismissed the objection to jurisdiction;
  • Article 21(4) – where the arbitral tribunal has issued an order for a temporary measure (eg, the preservation of evidence or assets) a request can be made to the court for an order to execute the temporary measure;
  • Article 36(1) – the arbitral tribunal may request the assistance of the court to compel a witness to provide oral testimony or to submit written evidence; and
  • Article 47 – the parties may file a request with the court to oblige the arbitral tribunal to deliver the award.

Can the local courts assist in choosing arbitrators?

With respect to sole arbitrators, either party may apply to the ‘competent authority’ (ie, the body authorised to administer the arbitration or the court) to assist with the appointment where the parties have failed to agree within 15 days after receiving a written request for the appointment of the arbitrator (Article 11(2)).

In the case of an arbitral panel, if either party has failed to appoint their nominated arbitrator within 15 days of receiving the request, or where the parties’ nominated arbitrators have failed to appoint the third arbitrator within 15 days from the date of their respective appointments, the competent authority can make the appointment (Article 11(3)).

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 32(3) of the Federal Arbitration Law states that if a party does not attend a hearing or fails to file the required documents without justification, the arbitral tribunal may proceed with the arbitration and can issue an award in the dispute based on the evidence available.

Under Article 36, the arbitral tribunal may seek the assistance of the court to obtain evidence. The court may issue an order to compel a witness to provide oral testimony or submit written evidence.

Third parties

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

Article 22 of the Federal Arbitration Law states that the arbitral tribunal may allow the joinder or intervention of a third party to the arbitration provided such party is a party to the arbitration agreement.

Default language and seat

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

The default language for the arbitration is Arabic, unless the arbitration parties agree otherwise (Article 29(1)). 

There is no default venue for the arbitration. Article 28(1) of the Federal Arbitration Law states that where the parties have not agreed on venue, the arbitral tribunal may select the venue taking into consideration the circumstances of the dispute and the suitability of the venue to the parties.

Gathering evidence

How is evidence obtained by the tribunal?

Article 31 of the Federal Arbitration Law states that parties may attach a copy of any necessary documents to their pleadings.

Under Article 36, the arbitral tribunal may seek the assistance of the court to obtain evidence. The court may issue an order to compel a witness to provide oral testimony or to submit written evidence.

What kinds of evidence are acceptable?

The Federal Arbitration Law refers to documentary evidence (Article 31), fact witness evidence (Article 33) and party-appointed and tribunal-appointed expert evidence (Articles 33 and 34).

Article 33 provides that the parties may agree on the procedure for taking evidence. Absent the agreement of the parties, the arbitral tribunal may decide on these matters (Article 33(2) and (7)).  The arbitral tribunal also has the power to determine the rules of evidence, including in relation to the admissibility and weight of evidence (Article 33(8)).

Confidentiality

Is confidentiality ensured?

Article 33(1) of the Federal Arbitration Law states that the arbitration hearings are deemed confidential unless otherwise agreed by the parties. Article 48 states that the award is confidential and cannot be published without the consent of both parties.

Can information in arbitral proceedings be disclosed in subsequent proceedings?

The Federal Arbitration Law contains no provisions on whether arbitral proceedings can be disclosed in subsequent proceedings. In enforcement proceedings, the original award and a copy of the arbitration agreement are required to be submitted with the application for enforcement (Article 55(1)).

Ethical codes

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

The Federal Arbitration Law does not refer to any ethical codes for arbitrators or counsel. Attorneys acting in arbitration will generally be bound by the ethical rules of the state in which they are admitted to practise law. Ethical codes for arbitrators are also issued by various Bar associations, such as the American Bar Association, which provide ethical guidance.

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