x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Amendments to the 1992 Code of Civil Procedures were approved at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

ABU DHABI // Legal experts have welcomed changes to the judicial system that were announced on Sunday, agreeing that court proceedings should be sped up.

Amendments to the 1992 Code of Civil Procedures were approved at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

The changes will help to reduce delays in civil court cases and bring quicker verdicts for litigants.

Provisions include a new case-management system that allows electronic filing, and permitting litigants to appeal in the same court that issues a verdict.

“I salute the Government for excelling in everything. It regularly follows up on all that is hindering government work,” said Ahmed Al Khateri, head of Ras Al Khaimah Judicial Department.

“This is something that will speed up court proceedings and help us overcome burdens. There are also a number of other directives that are aimed at speeding up court procedures.”

The delay of court cases has been criticised internationally, most recently during the trial of Dr Cyril Karabus, a South African physician arrested at Dubai International Airport last year over the death of a young patient.

This led an FNC member to complain to the Minister of Justice, Dr Hadef Al Dhaheri.

Mosabeh Al Kitbi, of Sharjah, said delayed cases opened the door to foreign intervention. The minister replied that laws to reduce delays were coming.

Mr Al Khateri, a former FNC member, said the Ruler of RAK, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, regularly followed up on long cases in the courts and asked for a speedy resolution.

While some emirates lag behind Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Mr Al Khateri said the amendments would help to unify procedures in local and federal courts.

Hadeya Al Hammad, an Emirati lawyer, said the new online case-management system could save her several weeks of work and trips to the court.

“This will also enable lawyers to review cases from anywhere, not needing to go to court,” Ms Al Hammad said.

While being able to appeal in the same court as the verdict would improve matters, she warned that allowing litigants to appeal without a lawyer was “not advisable”.

“This needs to be done by a lawyer,” Ms Al Hammad said. “If the case failed the first time without a lawyer, then how will it be won the second time round without a lawyer?

“There are matters a legal consultant can pick up that a normal person would not.”

She also suggested the summer judicial break be shortened. Court has been out of session for more than a month, leading some cases to be adjourned for up to two months.

“This is the main reason cases are delayed,” Ms Al Hammad said. “Since judges only came back this week after their break at the end of July, a case I filed yesterday has a scheduled court hearing October 30.”

She said she could not understand why many cases are adjourned after several court hearings.

Nehro Mohammed, a lawyer in Abu Dhabi, said adjourning cases several times was a common practice and could prolong the process up to several months.

Other reasons for delayed cases includes the need to consult court experts and the limited number of Emirati lawyers, Mr Mohammed said.

He sympathised with judges for their workload but said that was not a reason to send cases to experts.

“Some cases don’t even need to go to an expert,” Mr Mohammed said. “And the expert always takes cases even when they are too busy, which means cases are delayed even longer.”

He echoed Ms Al Hammad’s concerns about allowing litigants to represent themselves.

“As a lawyer, I cannot go to hospital and perform surgery on myself,” Mr Mohammed said.

“A lawyer needs to file an appeal, only they will know what to write. Otherwise the appealer will end up writing his whole life story to the court.”

Law amendments will now go to the FNC for review and study before being presented to the President, Sheikh Khalifa, for his approval.

Ahmed Al Zaabi, a veteran lawyer and member of the FNC’s legal affairs committee, said it was only natural that the law evolve.

Court summonings and other announcements needed to be reviewed and changed.

“Today these are made using traditional methods through publication and through diplomacy if outside the country,” Mr Al Zaabi said. “This all takes time.”

osalem@thenational.ae