x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Dubai to launch mediation centre to cut litigation

A year in the making, the move is a response to the surge in property-related cases and is designed to reduce litigation costs.

DUBAI // The Dubai courts are seeking to reduce the amount of litigation they handle with the launch this month of a dispute resolution and mediation centre.

The director general of Dubai Courts, Dr Ahmed bin Hazim al Suwaidi, said the centre - which is scheduled to begin operating this month - is expected to reduce litigations by 20 to 30 per cent this year.

"This new service will provide a faster option to dispute parties, in comparison with litigation, which can take months or years," he said. "The dispute resolution would be reached within a 30-day period."

It will "provide a new option for the disputers to settle their issues amicably," he added. "We have also provided incentives such as a 50 per cent refund of the case registration fees if a resolution is found."

The parties will discuss their dispute with the mediator until a settlement is reached. A settlement will be notarised and legally binding, Dr bin Hazim said, although the penalties for breaking a settlement have not yet been disclosed.

Specific cases registered to the civil, commercial and real estate courts would automatically be referred to the centre, Dr bin Hazim said.

"We are currently finalising what kind of cases will be referred and will be announcing them soon," he said.

The project traces its origins to a January 2010 decree by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE, to establish a dispute-resolution centre to reduce the number of court cases resulting from the financial crisis.

"We have been working for almost one year setting up the dispute resolution and mediation centre and preparing the legal requirements after the Ruler's decree," Dr bin Hazim said.

In 2009, the Dubai Civil Court registered more than 2,100 civil cases, compared to 1,800 such cases in 2008. More than 1,600 commercial cases were registered in 2008, compared with 2,684 in 2009. Real estate cases, meanwhile, jumped from 149 in 2008 to 1,606 in 2009.

Statistics for 2010 have yet to be released, but a 20 per cent increase on the 2009 numbers is expected.

"The system introduced is going to follow what we have implemented at the personal status courts with family disputes and with the labour courts," he said.

The centre will be led by Mohammed Amin Mubashiri, a lawyer and longtime employee of Dubai Courts, and will have four permanent mediators, who will operate under the supervision of the chief justices of the related courts.

"They are currently being trained by mediation experts from the DIFC courts and the Singapore Mediation Centre; furthermore, they will be trained on internal procedures and be sworn under oath," Dr bin Hazim said.

Lawyers, experts and mediators - including high-ranking police officers - from around the UAE have been registered to mediate.

"We have sent out letters to all the government departments and have received an overwhelming response," Dr bin Hazim said.

Last Sunday, 20 police officers began a course in commercial mediation and arbitration conducted by the GCC arbitration centre.

"Cases take a long time to be resolved. Therefore mediations, arbitration and resolutions will effectively reduce the number of cases in the courts," said Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, the Dubai police chief.

"I think this is the best substitute to litigation in commercial disputes, especially after the global financial crisis, which left a lot of traders in legal disputes."

amustafa@thenational.ae