DIFC Courts
  • Small Claims Tribunal
  • Court of First Instance
  • Court of Appeal
  • Technology & Construction Division
  • Arbitration Division

Small Claims Tribunal (SCT)

Established in 2007, the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) can hear claims within the jurisdiction of the DIFC in three situations. First, where the amount or value of the claim does not exceed AED 500,000. Second, when the claim relates to the employment or former employment of a party and the amount or value of the claim exceeds AED 500,000 and all parties to the claim elect in writing that it be heard by the SCT. 

There is no value limit for the SCT’s elective jurisdiction in the context of employment claims. Third, if in the context of claims which are not employment related, the amount or value of the claim does not exceed AED 1 million, and all parties elect in writing that it be heard by the SCT, such election can be made in the underlying contract (if any) or subsequently.

Court of First Instance (CFI)

The Court of First Instance (CFI) has exclusive jurisdiction over any civil or commercial case when it relates to the DIFC, in the following context:

  • Civil or commercial cases and disputes arising from or related to a contract that has been fulfilled, or a transaction that has been carried out, in whole, or in part, in the DIFC, or an incident that has occurred in the DIFC;
  • Objections filed against a decision made by the DIFC’s bodies, which are subject to objection in accordance with the DIFC’s laws and regulations;
  • Any application over which the Courts has jurisdiction in accordance with the DIFC’s laws and regulations.

The Court of First Instance can hear cases when the contract in question specifies DIFC Courts’ jurisdiction (pre-dispute jurisdiction) or when both parties elect to use DIFC Courts to resolve a dispute which has already arisen (post-dispute jurisdiction). One Judge hears proceedings in the CFI.

Court of Appeal (CA)

This Court shall be comprised of at least three (3) Judges, with the Chief Justice, or most senior Judge, presiding. The Court of Appeal has exclusive jurisdiction over:

  • Appeals filed against Judgments and Awards made by the Court of First Instance;
  • Interpretation of any article of the DIFC’s laws based upon the request of any of the DIFC’s bodies or the request of any of the DIFC’s establishments provided that the establishment obtains leave of the Chief Justice in this regard. Such interpretation shall have the power of law.

The Court of Appeal lays down the final order or judgment of the Courts and no appeal shall be permitted from a decision of the Court of Appeal.

Technology & Construction Division (TCD)

Established in 2017 and headed by Justice Sir Richard Field, the Technology and Construction Division (TCD) draws on specialist judges and a new set of industry-specific rules to fast-track dispute resolution, providing greater certainty to businesses in court. The Division will only hear technically complex cases.

Examples in the construction sector might include complicated engineering disputes or claims arising out of fires. Technology-related cases could include liability for cybercrime incidents, disputes over the ownership and use of data, and issues relating to emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence or connected cars.

Arbitration Division

Established in 2020, the Arbitration Division is mandated to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of arbitration-related cases. Similar to the Technology & Construction Division (TCD) launched in 2017, the Arbitration Division is Chaired by H.E. Justice Shamlan Al Sawalehi and leverages dedicated judicial and registry oversight and case management expertise. Streamlining the arbitration-related cases under the new division has also led to increased efficiency of process, with the ability to swiftly review applications for interim measures and injunctive relief mechanisms.

With its extensive national, regional, and global connectivity, the DIFC Courts empowers its specialised Arbitration Division to leverage existing enforcement expertise, helping to ensure certainty of recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards.

To bolster the Arbitration Division, the DIFC Courts has also launched an Arbitration Working Group in 2020, the first court in the region to introduce such an initiative. The panel of experts are tasked with reinforcing and sharing developments and best-practices, encompassing an advisory team of arbitration professionals, bodies, centres, educational institutions, and industry-related organisations.


DIFC Courts

H.E. Justice Shamlan Al Sawalehi Court of Appeal Judge & Judge in Charge of Arbitration Division

Deputy Chairperson

DIFC Courts

Nour Hineidi Registrar


Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC)

Rashid Shahin Director

DIFC Arbitration Institute (DAI)

Alec Emmerson Chief Executive & Trustee

Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Taghrid Ashrafi Senior Legal Counsel

Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIAC), UAE Branch

Leonora Riesenburg Chair

Middlesex University Dubai

Dr Tenia Kyriazi SFHEA Deputy Director, Academic Operations

Dubai Holding

Hussain Hadi Head of LexisNexis Publishing Middle East

Dubai Holding

Edward Sunna Chief Legal Officer

Clyde & Co

Nassif BouMalhab Partner

Clifford Chance

Paul Coates Partner

Reed Smith

Michelle Nelson Partner

Vinson & Elkins

Amir Ghaffari Partner

Mayer Brown International

Alain Farhad Partner

Hadef & Partners

Adrian Chadwick Partner

DLA Piper

Henry Quinlan Partner

Herbert Smith Freehills

Stuart Paterson Partner

Al Tamimi & Co.

Sara Koleilat-Aranjo Senior Associate

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

Shane Jury Associate

Fichte & Co

Jasmin Fichte Managing Partner

Serle Court

Rupert Reed QC

XXIV Old Buildings

Michael Black QC

XXIV Old Buildings

Tom Montagu-Smith QC

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