In the late 1900s, the Hague convention intended to develop a standardised procedure by which countries involved in international commerce, could resolve conflicts in a forum where foreign judgments be recognised and enforced by courts. Subsequently in 2005, the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act facilitated the recognition of a foreign judgment in United States of America Courts to provide legal certainty that helped aid the recognition and enforcement of United States judgments abroad.
The UAE is also party to numerous multilateral conventions on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments, which include the Riyadh Convention on the Judicial Cooperation between the States of the Arab League 1983 (entered into without reservations) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Convention for the Execution of Judgments, Delegations and Judicial Notifications of 1996 (entered into without reservations). The enforcement of judgments follow different processes under each convention:
Paris Convention: No specific legal framework has been recognised. The application for recognition and enforcement of the foreign judgment shall be submitted before the competent court of first instance within the jurisdiction in which the party wants to enforce the judgment by following the usual procedure of bringing a claim under article 235(2) of the UAE Civil Procedures Code.
The application of the above treaties entered into by the UAE extends to the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts under Article 24(2) of the DIFC Court Law. The DIFC Courts themselves have entered into several memoranda of guidance related to reciprocal enforcement arrangements with several courts and authorities, such as the UAE Ministry of Justice, the Ras Al Khaimah Courts, the Federal Court of Australia, the Supreme Court of Singapore, the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the Commercial Court of England and Wales.
Now under DIFC Courts, when a foreign judgment has been recognised and enforced a separate enforcement application is required to be made to the DIFC Courts’ Enforcement Division. The procedure for enforcement depends upon whether enforcement is sought against assets within the DIFC or against assets onshore in the wider UAE. If the enforcement is to be sought against assets within the DIFC, then the enforcement methods are same as those available under the rules of the DIFC courts, and the said rules in DIFC court are similar to those of English rules.
If enforcement is to be sought against assets onshore in the wider UAE, an execution letter will be issued by the DIFC courts to the Chief Justice of the Court of First Instance of the Dubai Courts. The Dubai courts will then enforce against assets within Dubai or deputise the courts of an alternative Emirate to enforce the judgment against assets within that Emirate.
Both, the domestic UAE courts and the DIFC courts, have to carefully examine that the foreign judgments comply with UAE public policy before approving to its enforcement. With respect to procedural and substantive matters, given that there is no statutory definition of public policy under UAE laws, Emirati courts usually derive the interpretation of public policy in the context of Sharia rules and principles, which are elaborately developed and favourably comply across a comprehensive ideological spectrum.
The same applies to DIFC Courts, which will take into consideration UAE public policy while enforcing a foreign judgment. Typically, an application to recognise and enforce a foreign judgment that is more than 15 years old is not entertained.
To conclude, having a treaty increases incentives to cooperate and enforce foreign judgments for a stable multinational community. With a combination of multilateral and bilateral treaties, memoranda of guidance for reciprocal enforcement arrangements with several international courts and provisions in UAE Federal Law, the UAE Courts and the DIFC Courts have created an efficacious structure to recognise and enforce foreign judgments with minimal complications for the affected party. Under remarkable sovereign governance, the embodiment of this system has led to a highly conducive environment for businesses to invest in the country. In conjunction to witnessing stupendous growth, they have the assurance that, should the situation arise, judgments passed by competent courts situated outside the UAE on parties or assets located within it, can be executed with the force of law.
Written by: Kushagra Arora
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