Enforcing Foreign Judgements in UAE

In the UAE, the general procedures for the enforcement and execution of both domestic and foreign judgement are set out in the UAE Civil Procedure Code (CPC). Since 2004, the courts of Dubai operate two distinct branches:


The Dubai Courts generally adopt the civil law system, whereas the DIFC Courts adopt the common law system and have jurisdiction over all DIFC associated matters, as long as it does not entail family law or criminal law. The DIFC is a financial free-zone in the UAE, that has its own set of commercial laws and regulations. 


Enforcing Dubai Courts 

The implementation of foreign judgements in the UAE follows a set of conditions that are imposed in Article 235 of the UAE Civil Procedure Code. It is established in section 2(a) that the Dubai Courts will not impose on a foreign judgement that is issued because they do not have any jurisdiction in the dispute of a foreign legal jurisdiction. In the circumstance that a Dubai permanent resident gets issued a judgement from a foreign jurisdiction, it usually will not be enforceable in Dubai even when there is an exclusive jurisdiction clause in the contract (i.e., an agreement by the parties where a particular foreign court has jurisdiction over a dispute). 


The Dubai Supreme Court has stated that the jurisdiction clause will be void in UAE on the grounds of public policy. In addition to this, the enforcement of foreign judgements that grants certain non-monetary remedies, such as injunctions, are not possible generally due to the fact that these remedies are not available in Dubai Courts. Any parties seeking to enforce judgements that fall in this category are advised to file a new substantive claim in the Dubai Courts that is based on the original claim that the foreign body has passed, and submit this foreign judgement as evidence to support the new, UAE claim. 


The DIFC Courts

DIFC Courts allow the execution of foreign judgements in accordance with the rules of the DIFC Courts (RDC). Article 7(6) of the Judicial Authority Law and Article 24(1)(a) of the DIFC Court Law states that the DIFC Courts have the jurisdiction to authorize any judgement that a foreign court has passed that the court is recognized in UAE. Implementing a foreign money judgement in DIFC against an individual with assets that are located in DIFC is pretty easy and straightforward. 

The English Commercial Courts and the DIFC Courts have signed a non-legally binding ‘Memorandum of Guidance’ document which facilitates easy acceptance from judgements made in the UK, thus making the enforcement mutual, although it is subject to certain conditions. It is also possible to enforce a foreign judgement made of a more complex nature, such as injunctions and freezing orders, though it is also subject to certain conditions. The implementation of a foreign judgement in the DIFC courts can be obtained by filing for a declaration or judgement debt claim, and remedies of this claim are available under Article 37 of the DIFC law of damage and remedies. 


The claim can be filed either under Part 7 under the RDC, which is the common procedure when beginning a claim or under Part 8 of the RDC if the claim is unlikely to involve a substantive dispute of fact. It should be noted that any judgement that is passed by the DIFC Courts is effective and binding on any party that has a presence in DIFC, though in the case of DNB Bank ASA v (1) Gulf Eyadah Corporation (2) Gulf Navigation Holdings Pjsc, the DIFC Court of Appeal appears to state that the DIFC Courts can be used to enforce foreign court judgments or orders (possibly limited to monetary awards) against a defendant’s assets in Dubai even if the parties have no immediate connection with, or assets in DIFC. 


Reciprocal enforcement treaties 

The UAE holds several treaty agreements that facilitate the enforcement of judgements from several foreign jurisdictions. The most relevant of these treaties is the 1996 GCC conventions, in which Article 1 states that “The GCC shall execute final judgements issued by the courts of any member state in civil, commercial and administrative cases…”. The court of origin must have jurisdiction over the underlying claim. 


Article 238 of the CPC stipulates that the Dubai Courts should enforce GCC judgements that are qualifying without reconsidering their merits, even if Dubai Courts have parallel jurisdiction over the original claims. This is a significant exception to Article 235(2)(a) of the CPC which prevents the enforcement of foreign judgements in UAE Courts if there is overlapping jurisdiction in the claims. The DIFC courts are legally bound to comply with the terms of the treaties for mutual enforcement of judgement pursuant to Article 24(2) of the DIFC Court Law. 


The English Courts’ enforcement of a UAE judgement Enforcing judgements from the UK Courts has always presented a challenge because there is currently no treaty that deals with mutual recognition between the UK and the UAE. 

The case of Lenkor Energy Trading DMCC v Puri may bring change to providing mutual recognition between the UK and UAE. The English High Court has enforced a Dubai Court Judgement on the basis that the judgement was final and conclusive, and the jurisdiction was competent. Although there were arguments being raised that related to illegality, and public policy, the arguments were dismissed by the English Courts because they recognized that it was the Dubai Court applying the laws of Dubai, so even if an English Court might have approached the matters differently, they still upheld Dubai Court’s judgement. It is also noted that the public policy argument will only be applied if the enforcement of the foreign judgement would be an offense to the English public policy, and because it did not, it was executed. This judgement will likely have a positive impact on future enforcement proceedings in the UAE, where enforcement of English judgements has been difficult due to the lack of reciprocity and the lack of treaty. 


Procedure for enforcement of foreign judgements in UAE

According to UAE Legal system, there are new regulations that are set in place that changed the process of implementing a foreign judgement. Previously, an individual would be required to follow the same procedure as the initiation of a fresh proceeding, and it is done by filing a recognition claim before the Court of First Instance. Its judgement was appealable before the Court of Appeal, and then further appealed before the Supreme Court. However, since the new regulations have been set, the application for enforcement can be brought directly to the execution judge who will determine if the treaty requirements are applicable. An application for enforcement for a foreign judgement must be accompanied by requisite evidence, which includes proof that:

It is important to note that as a matter of public policy, the foreign judgement cannot be enforced until it is certain that it contains nothing contrary to UAE public order. 


Points to consider Translation: 

The UAE Courts operate in Arabic, except for DIFC and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), hence any document that is submitted to the court must be in Arabic. Any document that is not in Arabic should be translated by a legal translator that is Court-certified. 


Notarization and Legalization: 

There are certain official documents that are needed in Court proceedings that need to be notarized and legalized. Notarization is done through a certified Notary Public or a private Notary. The document would then need to be attested or legalized. The relevant procedure for legalization will depend on the origin of the issuance of the document. Documents that were issued out of the UAE must generally be certified by the issuing authority and then attested in the UAE through the Embassy of the issuing country. The original document must then undergo the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), which is a mandatory procedure to validate the authenticity of the document.