DIFC Courts is an English language court based in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). DIFC Courts was announced in 2004 and was the region’s first English language court. It is mandated to hear disputes relating to business but has no jurisdiction over criminal or family matters.
The importance of DIFC Courts to UK business in the region cannot be understated. Local courts operate in the Arabic language, which of course could cause delays should translations be needed. International law firms would also need an Arabic speaking advocate to be able to be heard. DIFC Courts allows for the registration of international practitioners thereby giving UK firms familiar representation. DIFC Courts originally only had jurisdiction over firms registered in the Free Zone but can now facilitate any company registered in the UAE, the requirement is only the addition of specific clauses to contracts.
DIFC Courts has also worked to enhance its usefulness to the business community by signing a cooperation agreement with RAK Courts (an Arabic language local court) which means judgments made in either jurisdiction are mutually enforceable. It is important to appreciate that whilst the UAE is one country, each of the seven emirates is governed separately. There is a country-wide Federal law system in place but navigating the legal aspects of business operations requires on-the-ground advice.
In addition to using an English language system, which is based on UK Common Law, DIFC Courts also offers parties the Small Claims Tribunal. The SCT is for claims totaling less than AED500,000 and parties do not require legal representation. The Small Claims Tribunal is the region’s first Smart Court, enabling parties to be heard via the internet rather than in person in court. For a small business arguing a case this flexibility is invaluable.
Due diligence when expanding into a second market is arguably the most important part of the setup process. In the case of the six countries of the GCC, not only does each country have a different court system but there are multiple systems within each country. Our advice is to ask lots of questions in advance. Whilst the BCB cannot offer legal advice we do have access to local law firm and lawyers who can. We’re happy to take your questions.