UAE - Ministry of Justice issues letter on reciprocity of English judgments
Enforcement of foreign judgments and in particular the reciprocity between the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates has been a matter of frequent consideration and opining by the legal profession.
Given the strong trade between the two countries, confirmation on reciprocity of judgments between two countries would be a significant development for all interested parties. In this article, we look at the letter issued on 13 September 2022 by the UAE Ministry of Justice (the “Letter”). The Letter cites UAE Cabinet Decision No. 57/2018 On Regulation of Federal Law No. 11/1992 on the Civil Procedure (the “Law”) and also encloses the relevant judgment from the High Court of England & Wales. Article 85 of the Law states as follows:
Judgments and orders delivered by a foreign country may be ordered to be executed in the UAE under the same conditions as prescribed in the law of that country for the execution of judgments and orders issued in the State.
The order for execution, including the particulars specified in Article (16) of this Regulation shall be made on a petition and submitted by the person concerned to the execution judge. The judge shall issue his order within five working days from the date of its submittal. His order may be appealed in accordance with the rules and procedures prescribed for filing an appeal. It shall not be possible to order the execution before the verification of the following:
The Courts of the UAE are not exclusively competent in the dispute in which the judgment or order was rendered and the foreign Courts that issued it are competent in accordance with the rules of international jurisdiction established by their law.
The judgment or order is issued by a Court in accordance with the law of the country in which it was issued and duly ratified.
The litigants in the case in which the foreign judgment was delivered were summoned and were duly represented.
The judgment or order has the force of res judicata in accordance with the law of the Court issuing it, provided that the judgment has acquired the force of res judicata or provided for in the same judgment.
The judgment does not conflict with a judgment or order rendered by a Court of the UAE and does not contain anything contrary to public order or morals.
The enforcement judge shall have the right to obtain the documents supporting the application before issuing his decision.
The Letter is an opinion on the matter from the Director of International Cooperation Department - UAE Ministry of Justice which references judgment issued by the High Court in Lenkor Energy Trading DMCC v. Puri (2020) EWHC 75 (QB) (Lenkor). Under the Lenkor judgment, the High Court in England & Wales recognized a judgment from the onshore Dubai Courts and issued summary judgment in light of the judgment from onshore Dubai Courts.
The Letter encourages cooperation through enforcement of judgments between the Courts of England & Wales and the UAE Courts by relying on Article 85 of the Law in conjunction with the Lenkor judgment and concludes that the legal precedent and binding nature of the Lenkor judgment according to the judicial system in England & Wales is sufficient to establish the United Kingdom as a jurisdiction of reciprocity under the Law.
The letter then proceeds to request the relevant UAE Courts to take legal action regarding any requests for enforcement of judgments and orders from the Courts of England & Wales.
In the absence of a mutually recognized treaty between the United Kingdom and the UAE, a number of applicants in the past have attempted to enforce English judgments in the UAE by relying on reciprocity principle under Article 85 of the Law. Such attempts were largely dismissed due to a failure to produce evidence of UAE judgments being enforced by the English Courts.
However, given the Lenkor judgment and the Letter as recently issued by the UAE Ministry of Justice, the prevailing view is that applicants to the UAE Courts would now be able to rely on enforceability of judgments from the Courts of England & Wales provided all of the requirements under Article 85 of the Law have been met.
We are of the view the Letter indicates a progressive step towards the enforcement of English judgments in the UAE however the Letter, albeit persuasive, remains non-binding on the UAE Courts until further steps are taken or a consistent positive outcome is developed in the UAE Courts thereby establishing a precedent.
Applicants seeking to enforce English judgments should note the reciprocity is limited to the Courts of England & Wales and that Article 85 of Law would still restrict the application of any English judgment under UAE Public Policy and further grants a UAE enforcement judge full discretion to demand additional documents before issuing a satisfactory decision.