The UAE has recently promulgated Federal Law No. 15 of 2023, which amended Articles 10, 23, 28, and 33 of the Federal No. 6 of 2018 (the “Amendments”). The changes aim to provide efficiency and flexibility to arbitration proceedings seated in the UAE.
The Amendments entered into force on 16 September 2023 and align with the UAE’s objective to position itself as an international arbitration hub.
In this article, we will explore the notable amendments in detail.
Arbitrators’ qualifications (Article 10)
The Amendments modified Article 10, requiring the arbitrator not to have any relationship with any of the parties that could affect their integrity and independence.
Further, Article 10 no longer prohibits the parties from appointing members of the Board of Trustees, Executive Management or Administrative Bodies of the arbitral institution administering the arbitration.
In this regard, institutions must put in place particular governance policy and mechanisms to ensure that arbitrators remain impartial and independent throughout the proceedings.
It is unknown, however, if the Amendments will increase the challenges of arbitrators associated with arbitral institutions in the future.
Applicable Proceedings (Article 23)
The new Article 23 re-emphasized the parties’ autonomy in the proceedings. The new text excluded the reference to Article 10.2 (which prohibited arbitrators associated with arbitral institutions administering the arbitration from being appointed) and confirms that arbitrators must follow the procedure agreed upon by the parties with due regard to the arbitration rules of any arbitral institution.
In the absence of such an agreement, however, the arbitral tribunal shall determine the procedure it deems appropriate in a manner that does not conflict with the standards of litigation and international agreements to which the UAE is a party.
Remote Hearings and Use of Technology (Article 28)
The COVID-19 Pandemic has forced the arbitration community to adapt to a new reality, which accelerated the use of technology. In line with the new trend of conducting international arbitral proceedings, Article 28 now requires arbitral institutions to provide all the necessary technology to facilitate remote hearings.
In this respect, parties and arbitral institutions must pay special attention to the integrity and security of proceedings when choosing the relevant platform and technical set-up.
Hearings and Evidence (Article 33)
Finally, Article 33 vests arbitrators with powers to decide on a “document only” basis. Thus, arbitrators may now determine whether or not it is appropriate to hold oral evidentiary hearings.
Such a change is welcome as it gives tribunals more flexibility to conduct the proceedings and ensure efficiency. Moreover, it will likely help to keep the overall arbitration costs down.
The Amendments reaffirm the UAE’s commitment to becoming a global hub of international arbitration and being an arbitration-friendly jurisdiction. While the impact of the Amendments remains to be seen, the Amendments are a notable move for the growth of arbitration in the UAE and the Middle East.