The threat of imprisonment for arbitrators in the UAE has been removed as Article 257 is amended

A decision by the federal government of the UAE to remove arbitrators from the scope of application of Article 257 of the UAE Penal Code has been welcomed by the arbitral community in the UAE and beyond. Federal Decree No. 24 of 2018 came into force on 8 October 2018.

Dubai, seen as an arbitration-friendly jurisdiction, saw a threat to its image when Article 257 was amended in 2016 to include arbitrators in the category of individuals against whom criminal sanctions could be imposed if they failed to maintain integrity and impartiality in the discharge of their duties.

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Arbitrating in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Arbitration in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been subject to material reform in recent years which has had a positive effect in the realm of dispute resolution. The new arbitration law, enacted by Royal Decree No. M/34 published in the Official Gazette on 8 June 2012 (the “New Arbitration Law”) has facilitated the Kingdom in adopting international norms and practices when promulgating new laws. This New Arbitration Law is broadly modelled on the UNCITRAL Model Law and replaces the previous Arbitration Law issued by Royal Decree No. M/46 on April 25, 1983 and supplemented by an Executive Regulation dated June 22 1987.

The New Arbitration Law has paved the way for the adoption of ‘arbitration friendly’ provisions that facilitate the resolution of disputes in the Kingdom and complement the recent arbitral progress. For example, the UNCITRAL-based New Arbitration Law led to the enactment, in 2013, of a new enforcement law (the “Enforcement Law”).

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Contracting with governments: pitfalls, arbitration, sovereign immunity and enforcement

Entering into a contract with an entity owned or controlled by the state poses unique challenges not faced when dealing with a private commercial counterparty. Parties should be aware of certain distinctive features of negotiating with a state entity from the start of any commercial relationship. It is particularly important for parties to consider these implications when conducting business in the Middle East given that:

i. state entities play a major role in the procurement of major projects, particularly in GCC countries; and

ii. the reconstruction of infrastructure and the development of natural resources in countries such as Iraq require significant foreign investment in the form of contracts with state-owned entities.

Determining whether or not a commercial party is dealing with a state entity is not always a straightforward process in the Middle East. As such, parties should take extra care and consider the following factors at the outset:

a) the capacity of the entity to enter into an arbitration agreement;

b) the ability of the state in question to raise a defence of sovereign immunity in the future; and

c) the investment treaty protections that a company may be able to utilise.

In this article, we set out the key factors that parties should consider when negotiating with a state entity in order to maximise the protections available should a dispute arise at a later point.

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First insight – the new UAE Federal Arbitration Law and the future for UAE arbitration

On 3 May 2018, HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates, issued Federal Law No. 6 of 2018 promulgating the country’s much anticipated new Federal Arbitration Law (the “New Law“). The New Law, which is heavily based on the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, will replace and supersede Articles 203 to 218 of the Civil Procedures Code (Federal Law No. 11 of 1992 (as amended)) which currently govern arbitrations seated onshore in the UAE (the “Civil Procedure Code“).  The New Law applies to any arbitration conducted in the UAE, unless the parties have agreed that another law should apply, (Article 2) and to ongoing arbitration proceedings, even if the arbitration agreement was concluded before the Law came into effect (Article 59).

The New Law will take affect one month after its date of publication in the Official Gazette.  This article highlights some of the most significant developments and identifies key similarities and differences between the New Law and the UNCITRAL Model Law on which it is based. Continue reading

New UAE Federal Arbitration Law issued

The President of the United Arab Emirates has issued Federal Law No. 6 of 2018, promulgating the much anticipated new federal arbitration law in the UAE.  As we reported in March, the new federal law, which is based on the UNCITRAL Model Law, will replace and supersede Articles 203 to 218 of the Civil Procedures Law No. 11 of 1992, which currently govern arbitrations seated onshore UAE, and will provide a properly structured procedural framework for domestic and international arbitrations seated in the UAE. The law will be published in the Official Gazette of the Union, and will come into effect one month after the date of publication.

Craig Shepherd, Head of the Global Contentious Construction Practice at Herbert Smith Freehills and Head of the Dubai Dispute Resolution team, commented: “The new Federal Arbitration Law is a very exciting development for the whole of the UAE. While the state has developed a reputation as the pre-eminent seat in the Middle East for arbitration, it did risk falling behind other nations who have introduced comprehensive new laws.  That issue has now been addressed, and I am sure the new law will help cement the UAE’s position in the global arbitration market.”

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Recent arbitration developments in the UAE

In the last few months, there have been two notable developments in the United Arab Emirates relating to arbitration. First, it was announced on 27th February 2018 that the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates has approved the highly anticipated draft of the Federal law on Arbitration (understood to be based on the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration). Second, the Legal Affairs Department of the Government of Dubai has clarified that all lawyers who are licensed in Dubai have the right of audience before any arbitration tribunal in Dubai, including foreign lawyers, and that visiting lawyers may also appear before arbitral tribunals in Dubai. These significant and welcome developments are discussed further below.

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Inside Arbitration: Issue #5 of the publication from Herbert Smith Freehills’ Global Arbitration Practice

We are delighted to share with you the latest issue of the publication from the Herbert Smith Freehills Global Arbitration Practice, Inside Arbitration.

In addition to sharing knowledge and insights about the markets and industries in which our clients operate, the publication offers personal perspectives of our international arbitration partners from across the globe.

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New restrictions appear to limit clients’ choice of counsel in UAE seated arbitrations – but is it a storm in a teacup?

On 27 November 2017, Ministerial Resolution No. 972 of 2017 (the “2017 Regulations”) of the Executive Regulations to the Federal Legal Profession Law No. 23 of 1991 came into force, replacing the previous Regulations issued in 1997.

The effect of the 2017 Regulations is arguably that only UAE nationals registered on the Roll of Practicing Lawyers (“Local Counsel”) can represent clients in the UAE national courts and arbitration proceedings seated ‘onshore’ in the UAE. The 2017 Regulations do not, however, apply to Dubai International Financial Centre (“DIFC”) Court proceedings, arbitrations seated in the DIFC, Abu Dhabi Global Market (“ADGM”) Court proceedings or arbitrations seated in the ADGM.

Non-UAE national lawyers (“International Counsel”) have never been permitted to appear before the UAE national courts and so the impact of the 2017 Regulations on these proceedings is limited. But the 2017 Regulations could be of great significance to arbitrations. We explore below the implications of this potentially significant and unexpected legislation on UAE seated arbitration proceedings (“Onshore Arbitrations”). Continue reading

Has the pendulum swung back in favour of the DIFC courts? Two new decisions of the Judicial Tribunal

We recently reported on three decisions of the Judicial Tribunal (please click here) following our commentary on the Judicial Tribunal’s controversial first decision in Daman v Oger and the effect on the Banyan Tree jurisdiction (click here). We concluded that, notwithstanding the absence of detailed reasoning in individual decisions, it was possible to piece together the Judicial Tribunal’s approach from its decisions taken as a whole. The two new decisions shine further light on that approach. Continue reading

The DIFC’s conduit jurisdiction under attack? The Dubai Court attempts to reverse Banyan Tree

Following on from our reporting on the controversial first decision of the Judicial Tribunal in Daman Real Capital Partners Company LLC v. Oger Dubai LLC, Cassation No. 1 of 2016 (JT) (click here), there has been significant commentary on the possible implications for the DIFC's status as a conduit jurisdiction, particularly in connection with the enforceability in the DIFC of Dubai-seated arbitral awards, commonly referred to as the 'Banyan Tree' jurisdiction. 

At best, the Judicial Tribunal's decision seemed to provide yet another forum for onshore award debtors to use guerrilla tactics to frustrate and delay satisfaction of awards and, at worst, appeared to rule out enforcement of onshore seated DIAC arbitral awards in the DIFC, effectively overturning Banyan Tree.

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