This is a proud moment for the Courts and for me – but also embarrassing for me. I am grateful for the generous remarks that have been made.
More than ten years ago, the founders of the DIFC, under the inspiring leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, then the Crown Prince and now the Ruler of Dubai, recognised that a world class Dispute Resolution Service was essential to the success of the international financial centre they were planning.
They had the foresight to provide that the Centre should have its own legal regime, in civil and commercial cases, and they modelled its Courts on the Commercial Court in London. They recognised that the Commercial Court, which was formally established in 1895, has moulded the common law into a system of commercial law that is now what one might call a world-wide brand. It has become internationally acceptable because merchants and businessmen choose to have their contracts governed by rules which are clearly established by precedent, and their disputes resolved under procedures designed to suit their needs.
Even so, the situation in Dubai was and still is unique. A State with a civil law system and whose Courts operate under civil law procedures has expressly adopted the common law to govern civil and commercial disputes arising within or connected with the new financial centre. And that was sanctioned by the sovereign Federal State, the UAE, of which Dubai forms part.
We can now see that that pioneering decision presented the new Court with two challenges. The first was to provide an efficient and credible Court system and dispute resolution service within the DIFC and so to discharge the responsibility that was placed upon us. That, I hope and believe, we have done. Our thanks are due to many, but at this point I shall mention only two. The legal community in Dubai has been supportive throughout, both at the personal level and formally through the Courts Users Committee which has been a tower of strength. I refer particularly to Graham Lovett whom you have just heard. The Committee was responsible for the Code of Conduct for lawyers practising in the Courts, published last year and the first, I believe, in Dubai and the Gulf Region. This is a major achievement, not least because it will assist in forming the link of personal trust between advocates and judges of the Court, which is the hallmark of our procedures and vital, I believe, to their well-being.
Secondly, I pay tribute to the support we have received from the DIFC itself, represented by the Governor H.E. Ahmed Al Tayer, who has honoured us with his presence today, and before him from H.E. Dr. Omar Bin Sulaiman who enabled us to open these magnificent court premises as early as April 2007. I should also place on record that they and the Government of Dubai at all times have scrupulously observed the principles of judicial independence and the constitutional concept of the separation of powers. The Courts are truly independent, and I express my gratitude to them. This has made it possible for us to live up to the ancient Arabic inscription which reads, in translation, “do not be afraid to ask for justice”. The English equivalent “Access to Justice” is more prosaic.
Our second responsibility was less obvious in 2004 but it has proved to be equally important. The novel concept of a commercial court applying common law rules alongside national Courts applying civil laws and procedures in the same national jurisdiction has made it necessary to create and develop a working relationship between the two Courts. We could not have been more fortunate than we have been, and are, in establishing this relationship with the Dubai Courts. For this, I would like to thank their Judges, and in particular their Director-General H.E. Dr Ahmed bin Hazeem – if I may say so, my colleague and partner, and my friend, who I am delighted and honoured to see here today.
So I come to the individuals upon whom the success of the Courts really depends. At the risk of embarrassing them, I will mention them by name. Amna Al Owais is the Deputy Registrar; Rita Hicks and Ghada Audi work with her, assisted by Javeiria, Kamal and Bhuwan. My grateful thanks to you all.
At first there was a Consultant Registrar, John Watherston CBE; then, as Acting Registrar, Sunita Johar; to both of them, much is owed; now, after nearly two years, Mark Beer. I cannot even begin to say how fortunate the Courts were to recruit him or to describe the efficiency and above all the vision and flair he has brought to the office of Registrar. Under his leadership the Courts’ staff has become an effective team, and he is a powerful ambassador for the Courts in Dubai and the UAE and internationally. Allow me a nautical metaphor – his talents are now in full flood, and I simply commend him for what he has done and what he will certainly achieve in the future.
The two Resident Judges, Justice Omar Al Muhairi and Justice Ali Al Madhani, came to the Courts as Judicial Officers at the very outset, from the Dubai Courts where they were Judges. They were later sworn as Justices of the DIFC Courts by HH the Ruler of Dubai, so they now have judicial experience in both Courts. They have played a unique and valuable role in developing the relationship between the two Courts, which is crucially important for the reasons I have given. They have made a sensational success of the Small Claims Tribunal, and they have been twin pillars who have supported the growth and success of the Courts generally. With gratitude and affection, I say ‘thank you’ to them both. I would be proud to call them my brothers in the law, but they would remind me that there is a generation gap.
Shamlam Al Sawalehi recently succeeded them as a Judicial Officer, and so to him I bid both welcome and farewell.
My fellow Judges, I hope, will forgive me if I do not mention them individually, except Justice David Williams whom we can see is present by a video relay. Graham Lovett has reminded us that when this courtroom was opened in April 2007, I said that I hoped that the Courts’ Judges would prove to be workmanlike as well as wise. You have made that hope become a reality. Your combined talents and experience are the underlying reason why the Courts are in a strong position today, able to take forward the work of developing what I have called the world wide brand of international commercial justice derived from the centuries-old traditions of the Commercial Court. That will be of benefit, not just to the DIFC and Dubai, but also I predict to the UAE and to the international business community throughout the Region.
And, Chief Justice, I am confident that under your leadership, with Sir Anthony Colman as your Deputy, the Courts will do just that. You have a great wealth of international experience and you have already achieved an extraordinary amount for the Courts, in the judgments you have given and in many other ways. I am enormously grateful for the support and encouragement you have given me during the past five years. Any credit I deserve for what we have achieved must be shared with you. Let me end with another nautical metaphor – all good wishes, and good luck for the next stage of the voyage.
Later, at a second ceremony, I received from Mark Beer a Scroll of Office which I passed on to the new Chief Justice.
Sir Anthony Evans
16 June 2010
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