x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

UAE Supreme Court judges reflect on 40 years of development

Court officials reflect on the past, and tell new judges: "A judge should listen more than talk, think more than analyse".

ABU DHABI // Union Supreme Court judges and officials reflected on developments over the past several decades that have helped them in their jobs.

Shehab Al Hammadi, chief justice of the commercial courts and former head of state security, said in the past there was no legislation so the court had to refer to “fiqh of comparison”, or Islamic jurisprudence, to form its rulings.

“But the legislation we have now mostly fulfilled” the court’s needs, he said.

In state security hearings, Mr Al Hammadi is well-known for his extreme patience with defendants and tendency to stand up for them. He once scolded a policewoman for bringing shackles inside the court.

“A judge should listen more than talk, think more than analyse,” he said, offering words of advice to a new generation of justices. “The real guarantee for fair justice is to give the defendant the ultimate defence opportunity so the judge should be a good listener.”

Shaimaa Al Tunaiji, the first Emirati female military prosecutor, said since the inception of specialised prosecution in 2012, military justice has become more specific.

“It is something new, and we followed developed countries such as Turkey, the US, with this.”

Some new laws were also introduced, such as the absence law. If a military person is absent for more than 90 days he is referred to prosecution and could face a jail term from three months to two years.

During the 40th anniversary celebration, the chief justice and Ms Al Tunaiji were honoured. Ibrahim Al Marzougi, head of judicial services at the USC, said the court has made a huge transformation from manual operations to electronic.

“Everything used to be manual until recently.”

For instance lawyers had to appear in court to register an appeal, but now they can do it electronically from their offices.

Laila Al Shekaily, office manager of the technical office, said the “judicial email service” reduced the time required to publish verdicts from a year to just one week.

Anyone can register for the free service and receive updates of verdicts with details of the law and the cases, and how the decisions were made. USC verdicts are considered a form of reference for the lower courts, and providing the decisions is essential.