DIFC Courts
  • Over 90% of hearings and trials operated virtually in 2021
  • Paperless trials introduced in 2018 through region’s first eBundling service

Dubai, United Arab Emirates; 22 November 2021: The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts has officially confirmed 100% of internal processes and customer-facing services as now operating fully digital.

Following the launch of the Dubai Paperless Strategy by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum in 2018, the DIFC Courts accelerated the integration of all services into its extensive digital infrastructure.

Announced the same week as the launch of the Paperless Strategy, in February 2018 the DIFC Courts initiated the introduction of ‘paperless trials’, implementing the region’s first Courts eBundling system. The secure cloud-based technology allows court documents to be uploaded from anywhere in the world, enabling judges, lawyers, and courts staff to access case information in various formats, across multiple locations, and share with numerous users.

As a part of the UAE Government’s commitment to effectively employ advanced technologies and digital platforms to continue services to the public, the DIFC Courts leveraged its digital infrastructure to stay connected with court users during COVID-19 restrictions. Existing videoconferencing and teleconferencing facilities for applications and hearings were extended, as well as the issuing of digital Orders and Judgments, and court users were able to access all extensive ‘eServices’ remotely.

During the pandemic the DIFC Courts also injected fresh digital systems for the registration of Wills; the new video conferencing facility can be accessed via a smartphone, tablet, or a desktop device. This new digital offering is part of the existing Virtual Registry, which allows those living overseas to create and register a DIFC Courts Will. Investors, former and current residents can access it from anywhere in the world and be connected, via video link, to a compliance officer sitting in Dubai.

Among the many technologies the Courts has pioneered to re-engineer and increase access to justice, is the region’s first eRegistry in 2009, as well as digitally integrated courtroom and state-of-the-art eCourt Management System (CMS) in 2017.

Special project initiatives under the Courts of the Future have also assisted the DIFC Courts with advance R&D activities, uniting individuals and companies helping to prototype and launch the advancement of court technology, such as blockchain-powered initiatives, AI-enabled programmes, and cloud-based solutions.

His Excellency Justice Omar Al Mheiri, Director, DIFC Courts, said: “Since our inception, the DIFC Courts has pioneered the way courts services are delivered, with technology and digital infrastructure at the core. We continue our drive towards new cutting-edge digital transformation and equipping our court users with the most advanced tools, creating legal security in an era of technological disruption. In 2022, we will be launching Phase 2 of our Court Tech Lab initiative, a project built, launched, and progressed to position Dubai as the city that pioneers new industry-specific technologies. This initiative is a world first and it brings exciting new developments within the sphere of court-specific technologies and how we best deliver access to justice. By combining a modern and flexible digital infrastructure with judicial and service excellence, we endeavour to set a new benchmark for cultivating justice for global businesses.”

In May 2021, the DIFC Courts added the final pieces to its full paperless status by acquiring the qualified electronic seal solution Ethaq, a paperless initiative that enables digital authenticity of documents with the support of UAE PASS, the secure national digital identity platform for the United Arab Emirates.

With the Ethaq adoption, the DIFC Courts became as the first Dubai entity to acquire the entirely paperless certificate that enables court documents to be electronically signed, issued, and authenticated. Ethaq also integrates UAE PASS, the secure national digital identity platform of the UAE, in collaboration with Dubai Digital Authority, to provide an end-to-end signing solution that combines both an electronic seal and an electronic signature solution based on digitally verifiable identities.

The electronic seal Ethaq also reinforces the security and integrity of the documentation and eradicates tampering of official documents, enabling users to digitally verify the authenticity of any legal documents through the DIFC Courts website.

The rapid transition to fully digital remote hearings in 2020 also aligns the DIFC Courts with the directive issued in June 2021 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, with the Ministry of Justice instructed to hold 80% of litigation sessions virtually on a permanent basis before the end of 2021.

In 2021, the DIFC Courts received three (3) industry leading awards for technology implementations in support of its digital infrastructure. Awards received included Best Blockchain Focused Document Authentication Initiative, Innovative Initiative of the Year, and Best Digital Government Experience.