DIFC Courts
•    Landmark decision by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum opens DIFC Courts jurisdiction
•    International commercial cases can now be heard at DIFC Courts

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 31 October 2011: HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, today signed a law allowing any businesses to use the English language DIFC Courts, the Dubai International Financial Centre’s (DIFC) independent, common law judicial system, to resolve commercial disputes.

Dubai’s judiciary has always been at the forefront of justice in the region and beyond, and by allowing businesses in Dubai, and internationally, to have the choice of Dubai’s Arabic language or English language courts to resolve disputes reflects Dubai’s commitment to choice, and to providing a world class and diverse environment to resolve commercial disputes.

The Ruler’s decree opens the DIFC Courts’ jurisdiction, something that the regional business community has been calling for. The Courtroom doors are now open to businesses from all across the GCC region and beyond and provide the international business community with access to the most advanced commercial court in the world.

Dr. Ahmed bin Hazeem, Director General of Dubai Courts said: “The DIFC Courts and Dubai Courts share a commitment to justice and the rule of law, and have always worked together for the benefit of the community. This is a very positive development for justice, and a reflection of Dubai’s commitment to supporting investors and businesses both domestically and from around the world. We believe it provides the business community, which Dubai has so successfully developed, with even greater choice as they seek swift and effective resolution to commercial disputes.”

Michael Hwang, Chief Justice of the DIFC Courts said: “We are proud and thankful for the trust that His Highness has placed in us and, alongside our colleagues at Dubai Courts, remain committed to providing a world class forum for the resolution of business disputes. The expansion of the DIFC Courts’ jurisdiction makes us even more accessible to the communities in which we operate and whom we serve. The importance of this change is that our Courts are now available to all who wish to choose us as their preferred forum for resolution of their disputes, and now widens the choice of forum for businesses in Dubai and elsewhere. With our world class judicial system and judiciary, we are ready for this next challenge to demonstrate our capabilities on a much wider stage.”

As of the end of October 2011, the DIFC Courts had heard more than 400 cases.

The DIFC Courts’ community-focused approach to providing reliable, accessible, efficient and fair justice and offering exemplary service through the Court of First Instance, the Small Claims Tribunal, and the Court of Appeal, has delivered world-class justice that has been recognised at the highest levels.

DIFC Courts was this year accepted into the International Consortium for Court Excellence, a prestigious body founded by the US, Singaporean and Australian judiciaries to bring together ‘international judicial institutions with expertise in court and judicial administration’. In addition to this, Michael Hwang, the Chief Justice, sits on the World Economic Forum (WEF) agenda council. The DIFC Courts administration also remain involved with global judicial initiatives such as the Global Agenda Counsel on the International Legal System, the Annual GCC Regulators’ Summit, the Asia-Pacific Courts’ Conference in Singapore, and a number of others.

His Excellency Justice Omar Juma Al Muhairi said: “As an Emirati and as one of the founding members of the DIFC Courts, I am very proud to have played a role in bringing the Courts to this moment, when we are now able to further enhance Dubai’s reputation as the leading regional business hub. It is hard to believe how far we have come as an institution in such a short period of time. The outstanding progress made by the DIFC Courts is owing to the hard work of everyone that is and has been involved with the DIFC Courts over the past few years andI am looking forward to working together with everyone at the DIFC Courts to strive for further innovation and excellence.”

The DIFC Courts recently became one of the most advanced commercial courts in the world, employing technologies including electronic case management and video-conferencing to enable parties based all across the world to make use of the world class facilities on offer at the Courts.

Since their inception, the DIFC Courts have strived for the highest international standards, and have launched many ‘firsts’ for the region, such as a Pro Bono scheme offering free legal advice to those in financial hardship, and the Small Claims Tribunal, one of their most successful initiatives.

The DIFC Courts remain committed to cooperating with other Courts in the region and beyond. In 2011 alone, the DIFC Courts signed a number of Memoranda of Understandings with other bodies to work together towards furthering judicial excellence and innovation. There are regular meetings with judicial bodies from across the region, including Qatar and Bahrain, in an effort to work together more closely.

The DIFC Courts ongoing lecture series also continues to bring education opportunities to the legal community. In 2011, the DIFC Courts have delivered lectures and held discussions surrounding a number of interesting topics such as insolvency, Shariah law in a common law jurisdiction, which have been held in collaboration with Dubai Courts, and a training session by Singapore Mediation Centre, that was co-hosted with Dubai Courts, and on which teams joined from Ras Al Khaimah Courts, Ajman Courts and Abu Dhabi Judicial Department Alternative Dispute Resolution Bureau.