The ADGM now has an established judiciary and system of law following the appointment of four senior judges from common law jurisdictions on 9 November 2015 and the enactment of the ADGM Courts Civil Evidence, Judgments, Enforcement and Judicial Appointments Regulations (the ADGM Courts Regulations) and supporting ADGM Courts Rules on 17 December 2015. The Arbitration Regulations were also enacted in December 2015.
The ADGM Courts Regulations provide for the composition of the ADGM Courts to be a Court of First Instance and a Court of Appeal. Jurisdiction is restricted to civil matters.
The ADGM Courts Regulations also provide for the ADGM Courts to exercise wide ranging powers including:
- ordering interim payments and provisional damages for personal injury;
- issuing instructions for pre-action inspection/preservation/disclosure of property;
- restricting vexatious legal proceedings;
- ordering final and interim injunctions; and
- ordering damages in lieu of injunctions or specific performance.
Hearings will be held in public (unless specifically directed by the court to be held in private) and conducted in English. Sittings and other business of the ADGM Courts may be conducted at any place in the world and may be conducted via videoconference. These provisions recognise that parties and their representatives may not be residents of or domiciled in the UAE. It is likely that these provisions will enable the ADGM Courts to manage its cases with greater flexibility and allow matters to proceed in a cost efficient and expeditious manner.
Parties who obtain judgments from other courts within the UAE or foreign courts will be able to enforce those judgments through the ADGM Courts.
ADGM has stated that the core principle at the heart of the ADGM Courts Regulations is the desire to establish a judiciary and system of law:
- which is founded upon well-established, recognised and accepted principles of law;
- which recognises the importance to, and provides for, the impartiality, independence and integrity of its judges;
- whose judgments and rulings are capable of being, and will be, enforced in ADGM, throughout the UAE and in other jurisdictions;
- which has the confidence of the local and international commercial and legal markets; and
- which seeks to complement arbitration.
ADGM will be issuing court procedure and practice directions to be followed by parties to proceedings in the ADGM Courts in early 2016.
With regard to the wider ADGM legal framework, the Application of English Law Regulations 2015 provides for the direct application of the common law of England (including the principles and rules of equity) and certain English statutes. The application of English law, however, is subject to further amendment by Abu Dhabi and ADGM law.
The reference to established systems and flexibility built into the ADGM Court’s procedures and the direct application of English law in ADGM shows that ADGM is seeking to provide investors with legal certainty and predictability and to create a legal system which is both effective and high quality and recognisable to all those practising in, or familiar with, common law jurisdictions.