The ability to enforce judgements issued by English Courts in the UAE, has now been confirmed in a recent directive issued by the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Justice on 13 September 2022 (the “Directive”), under the principle of reciprocity.

The Legislation

The starting point for the enforcement of a foreign judgment in the United Arab Emirates is that certain conditions must be met, as stipulated in Article 85 of the Executive Regulations of the UAE’s Civil Procedures Law. These conditions can be summarised as follows:

  • The Courts of the UAE do not have exclusive jurisdiction over the dispute on which the judgment or order has been issued, and the foreign Court that issued the judgment has jurisdiction according to the rules of international jurisdiction prescribed in its law.
  • The judgment or order has been issued by a Court in accordance with the law of the state in which the judgment or order has been issued and duly certified.
  • The parties to the lawsuit on which the foreign judgment is issued had been required to appear and were properly represented.
  • The judgment or order has acquired the legal effect of res judicata according to the law of the issuing Court, provided that a certificate can be presented indicating that the judgment has acquired the legal effect of res judicata, or where the same is already stated in the judgment itself.
  • The judgment neither conflicts with a judgment or an order previously issued by a local court in the UAE nor involves anything that violates public order or morality.

Before the Directive

In addition to satisfying the above conditions, in practice, the UAE Courts typically did not enforce foreign judgments in the absence of an international treaty for the mutual recognition and enforcement of court judgments between the UAE and the foreign country whose judgment is sought to be enforced.

Whilst reciprocity is not a statutory condition required to enforce a foreign judgment before the UAE Courts, and it remained possible to enforce a foreign judgment in the absence of treaty-based reciprocity, subject to satisfying the conditions under Article 85 as given above, the absence of a reciprocal enforcement law nonetheless created a substantial barrier to enforcement in practice.

The Directive

Following the recent judgment in Lenkor Energy Trading DMCC v Puri [2020] EWHC 75 (the “Lenkor Judgment”) which saw the English Courts recognising and enforcing a judgment issued by the Dubai Courts, the Ministry of Justice of the UAE has now confirmed that treaty-based reciprocity is not required. In its Directive the Ministry of Justice stated that:

Legislation does not require that a treaty on legal assistance be in place for enforcement of foreign judgments, and these judgments may be enforced in the State on the Principle of Reciprocity

Impact of the Directive

Given that the Lenkor Judgment will serve as precedent and a binding principle for all English Courts, the Ministry of Justice confirms that the Principle of Reciprocity has now been met and going forward judgments issued by English Courts can be enforced in the UAE pursuant to the Principle of Reciprocity, paving the way for future recognition and enforcement of judgments between the UAE and England.

Consequently, for a successful party to enforce a judgment given by English Courts in the UAE, it need only prove that the requirements of Article 85 (as above) have been satisfied.

This Directive issued by the Ministry of Justice not only provides clarity on the enforcement of judgments rendered by English Courts, it further reaffirms Dubai’s reputation as a leading global dispute resolution hub.