DUBAI // The Justice Ministry is to introduce a triage system to ease the passage of civil disputes through the complex and competitive commercial arbitration procedures. Dr Hadef al Dhaheri, the Minister of Justice, yesterday told an international audience of lawyers, arbitrators, judges and government officials that his ministry was embarking on an ambitious programme of judicial reform under which the UAE would "bring law and due process of law to everyone's door".
This would be achieved, he said, through the introduction of a "multi-door court house", which would be empowered to decide which dispute resolution process was best suited for each dispute brought before it. Due process, he said, "whether in arbitration proceedings or in a judicial proceeding is so essential to justice, fairness and human rights and the rule of law, and the UAE as a responsible member of the international community is committed to all these principles".
On Feb 6, The National reported that the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), a free zone set up in 2004 and empowered to operate its own courts and dispute-resolution organisation, was planning to expand its activities to offer arbitration services throughout the country. The announcement raised eyebrows at the Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC), which resolves almost 80 cases a year involving claims worth a total of more than US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn). Dr Habib al Mulla, the former chairman of Dubai Financial Services Authority, who helped to create the legal framework of the DIFC, said that by seeking to arbitrate commercial disputes outside the zone the centre was overstepping its federal mandate.
Dr al Dhaheri was speaking at the opening of the 12th IBA International Arbitration Day symposium at the Jumeirah Emirates Tower Hotel in Dubai. The conference, organised by the London-based International Bar Association, is being held for the first time in the Middle East. It reflects the growing importance of the Emirates, and Dubai in particular, as a regional centre for arbitration, an increasingly lucrative business.
Dr al Dhaheri told yesterday's symposium, titled "Due process in international arbitration", that a draft law that would regulate arbitration in commercial disputes was under consideration. "This law shall govern all aspects of arbitration in the UAE, which include the following: agreement of the parties to subject their dispute for arbitration, formation of the arbitral body, arbitral awards, appeal of awards and enforcement of arbitral awards."
Dr al Dhaheri told more than 450 delegates that drawing on their wealth of experience in law would contribute to the development and growth of arbitration as an effective and preferable instrument for dispute resolution in the region. "The UAE in general, and Dubai in particular, has invested heavily in the development and establishment of institutions for arbitration to ensure the independence of legal proceedings to attract foreign investment," he said, adding that investors felt more comfortable when they had the right to choose the legal means for settling commercial disputes.
He singled out DIAC as one of the leading regional arbitration centres and also highlighted the work of DIFC. Abu Dhabi had also established an arbitration centre for the settlement of disputes within its own jurisdiction. At the international level, the UAE had "ratified the New York Convention for the Recognition and Enforcement of Arbitral Judgments as well as other regional conventions of the same subject to affirm its support for arbitration as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism", he said.
Omar bin Sulaiman, the governor of the DIFC, told participants the conference presented a great opportunity to discuss some of the critical issues facing the development of arbitration and dispute resolution in the country. "Dispute resolution centres have always been key to the success and competitiveness of an economy, but quick and efficient dispute resolution is particularly important now, at a time when the global economy is facing challenges," he said.
"Time is money, every business person knows that. When it comes to dispute resolution the faster it is the quicker a business can move on. However, given the increasing complexity of international business... traditional initiatives may not always be able to offer speedy dispute resolution." The availability of an alternative for for resolving commercial disputes was vitally important, he said, and the DIFC had recognised this when it set up a "world-class" judicial system and arbitration centre to meet investors' needs. It now aimed to make the UAE and Dubai a leading international centre for commercial arbitration.