Arbitration in Dubai: two steps forward, one step back

Introduction

Dubai promotes itself as an arbitration-friendly jurisdiction, in line with its objective of attracting international business. A recent, much-publicised change to the UAE Federal Penal Code which introduces potential criminal sanctions for arbitrators, threatened to undermine this reputation.

It would now appear that this threat is real, as arbitrators are in increasing number withdrawing from UAE-seated tribunals and refusing nominations to sit as arbitrators on such tribunals.

While the apparent policy behind the new amendment is understandable, since it requires that arbitrators act with impartiality and integrity, the drafting has far-reaching and perhaps unintended consequences.

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