x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

UAE judges independent and fair, says Minister of Justice

Constitution guarantees judges answer only to the law and their conscience and this underpins the stability of the country, says Minister of Justice.

The independence of the Emirati judiciary underpins the country's stability and provides an example to the rest of the region, according to the Minister of Justice.

Stressing that judges are subject to no authority other than the law and their conscience, Dr Hadef Al Dhaheri said that the "sanctity of the mission of justice" and respect for judges and judicial bodies is guaranteed by the Constitution and seconded by the President, Sheikh Khalifa.

Article 94 of the Constitution stipulates: "Justice is the basis of rule. In performing their duties, judges shall be independent and shall not be subject to any authority but the law and their own conscience".

"The independence of justice is what guarantees transparency and objectivity," said Dr Al Dhaheri, who said that judges are provided everything they need in terms of resources and professional incentives to carry out their duties.

He was speaking to The National's Arabic-language sister newspaper, Al Ittihad, ahead of a verdict expected today in the case of 94 Emiratis accused of sedition.

The case has attracted international attention, and focused the world's eyes on the justice system, as the 94 are accused of belonging to a secret organisation with links to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

In his interview, Dr Al Dhaheri said the UAE provided all defendants with the same guarantees as developed nations.

Over the years, the justice system had grown to become "a exemplar" for other nations seeking to entrench the principles of "the state of law and institutions", he said.

The judiciary was ranked the most transparent in the Middle East and North Africa by the World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index, Dr Al Dhaheri noted, saying this was just one indicator of how much progress the country's justice system had made.

In November 2012 The National reported that the UAE ranked fifth out of 97 countries for guaranteeing security and order for its citizens. The UAE scored top grades regionally in the absence of corruption, order and security, regulatory enforcement, access to civil justice and effective criminal justice.

"The UAE leads the region in several dimensions of the rule of law," the report said.

The minister has upheld the country's high scores in the index as "a vote of confidence from a respected international agency in the federal and local judicial system".

However, he says the Ministry of Justice is now working with the Emirates Competitiveness Council to make all aspects of the judicial system among the very best in the world.

In 1999, the UAE was one of the first nations in the region to pass legislation introducing "alternative dispute resolution" into its judiciary. This allows both litigants and judges to solve certain lawsuits, from personal status cases to business disputes, outside the traditional courtroom circuit.

Dr Al Dhaheri also said in the interview that the ministry was in the process of setting up world-class buildings to house the judicial department.

He said phase one of the plan was to set up modern buildings to house the Federal Supreme Court, the Federal First Instance Court and the Federal Appeals Court, as well as buildings for the public prosecution. These will all be built in Abu Dhabi. Phase two will involve setting up similar buildings across the country.