A new direction from the UAE Ministry of Justice will allow courts in Dubai to enforce judgments and orders issued by English courts.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and English governments have never entered into a bilateral treaty for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments. Parties wishing to enforce a judgment of the English courts in the UAE have always been required to seek judicial review of the merits of the underlying claim from the UAE courts prior to having an enforceable debt instrument, resulting in additional time, cost, and uncertainty. However, on 13 September 2022, the UAE Ministry of Justice released an official communication directing the courts of Dubai to enforce judgments and orders issued by English courts in accordance with the principles of reciprocity, after the English High Court decision in Lenkor Energy Trading DMCC v Puri (2020) EWHC 75 (QB).

Position of the English Courts

The first step toward reciprocity between the two jurisdictions was taken by the English High Court in the 2020 decision of Lenkor Energy, with both the English High Court and the Court of Appeal ruling that the Dubai Court of Cassation’s judgment was from a competent jurisdiction, did not offend English public policy, and was final.

This meant that a judgment debt of the UAE courts could be enforced through the English courts, subject to the enforcing party satisfying the court that such actions were not contrary to public policy.

UAE Response in Reciprocity

In response to Lenkor Energy, on 13 September 2022, the UAE Ministry of Justice released an official communication to the Dubai Courts, which relevantly stated:

[The UAE Ministry of Justice is] kindly requesting . . . you to take the relevant legal actions regarding any requests for enforcement of judgments and orders issued by the English Court . . . as a confirmation of the principle of reciprocity initiated by the English Courts (referring to Lenkor Energy) and assurance of its continuity between the English Courts and the UAE Courts.

Although the concept of reciprocity between the English courts and UAE courts has not been enshrined in UAE legislation, this official directive is a positive first step to reducing the barriers for enforcing English court judgments in the UAE.

This will also result in a level uniformity of the enforcement process between UAE courts and the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), where a memorandum of guidance regarding the enforcement of decisions exists with the English courts.

Moving Forward

We anticipate that such a decision will be well received by the business community and will see an increased level of confidence for UK-based investors who are looking to enforce judgment debts from English courts or arbitration awards.