UAE introduces enforcement provisions for foreign arbitration awards and judgments

Out-Law News | 15 Feb 2019 | 10:30 am | 2 min. read

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is set to introduce a new regime to regulate the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards and judgments.

The new rules, which are set out in a cabinet decision, will put to rest uncertainty regarding the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards which arose following the introduction of the UAE's Federal Arbitration Law last year.

The new rules were published in the UAE Official Gazette on 16 December 2018, and will come into force on 16 February 2019. The same streamlined procedure will now apply to applications for the enforcement of a foreign judgement or arbitral award in the UAE. 

The new procedure requires enforcement applications to be made to a judge in the Execution Court. The Execution Judge must rule on an enforcement application within three days, however that initial decision may be appealed.

Before granting an enforcement application, the Execution Judge must be satisfied of five matters:  the UAE courts did not have exclusive jurisdiction over the dispute in respect of which the original order or award was granted; the judgment or award was issued in accordance with the law of the country in which it was issued, and is duly attested; the parties were summoned to appear and were duly represented before the court or tribunal; the judgment or award is final and binding under the law of the place where it was issued; and the order or award does not conflict with judgment or award previously issued by a court in the UAE, and contains nothing in breach of the public morals or order in the UAE.

In applications to enforce foreign arbitral awards, the Execution Judge must additionally be satisfied that the award was made in respect of an arbitrable matter under UAE law, and is enforceable in the country in which it was issued.

The new procedure does not cut across the UAE's international obligations with respect to recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments and awards. The new rules expressly state that they do not derogate from the provisions of international conventions on enforcement of foreign judgements, orders and deeds to which the UAE is a signatory, such as the New York Convention on the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards. This continues the arbitration-friendly theme adopted in the new Federal Arbitration Law last year, and will be welcomed by local and international businesses in the UAE.

International arbitration expert Bill Smith of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said: "The new procedure resolves the residual ambiguity surrounding the enforcement of foreign awards following the enactment of Federal Law No. 6 of 2018 on Arbitration. The new rules' express statement confirming the primacy of international treaties and conventions affirms the UAE's pro-arbitration stance, which will be good for business."

The new UAE arbitration law set out in Federal Law No. 6 of 2018 on Arbitration in Commercial Disputes came into force in June 2018. The law is based on the internationally accepted UNCITRAL Model Law and expressly repealed the former law governing arbitration in the UAE, which dated back to 1992.