On 13 September 2022 the UAE Ministry of Justice issued a letter informing the Dubai Courts that the English Courts had recognised a UAE judgment, and as such the requirement for reciprocity when considering whether or not to enforce an English judgment had been met. This is a significant development which is expected to make enforcement of English judgments more straightforward in the UAE, although it remains the case that enforcement is not automatic.
Previously, when seeking to enforce an English judgment a judgment creditor had, to satisfy the UAE Courts, amongst other things, that the English Courts would enforce a UAE judgment, which led to a high risk of inconsistency case to case. Whilst not strictly binding on the UAE Courts, the Ministry of Justice’s letter seems to have resolved this issue, at least in part, as it notes that the UAE Courts should recognise that reciprocity does now exist between the two jurisdictions' courts, when it comes to enforcing each other’s judgments.
The English judgment referred to in the Ministry of Justice's letter is Lenkor Energy Trading DMCC v Puri  EWCA Civ 770, which concerned the enforcement of a UAE judgment (arising out of a claim related to a dishonoured cheque) in England. The English Court of Appeal found that the Dubai Court of Cassation judgment was to be recognised and enforced in England because the UAE Court had jurisdiction over the dispute, the judgment was final, and it did not offend English public policy.
Whilst it is anticipated that the Ministry of Justice’s confirmation of reciprocity will streamline the process of enforcement of English judgments in the UAE overall, other criteria for recognition and enforcement still need to be satisfied under the general rules for enforcement of foreign judgments. These criteria are contained in the UAE Civil Procedures Law (Federal Law No.11/1992) and Cabinet Decision No. 57/2018, and are that:
- The UAE Courts do not have exclusive jurisdiction over the dispute.
- The foreign court had jurisdiction in accordance with its own rules and properly issued judgment under those rules.
- The defendant was summoned and represented before the foreign court.
- The judgment is final (i.e. it has res judicata effect).
- The judgment does not conflict with a UAE judgment or order, nor is it contrary to UAE public morals.
The Ministry of Justice’s letter is nonetheless a welcome development. It is anticipated that it will give greater confidence to those seeking to enforce English judgments in the UAE, and demonstrates the commitment of the UAE Courts to maintaining a good judicial relationship with the English Courts, to the mutual benefit of both countries.
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The International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Justice requests courts in the country to take all the legal steps required to acknowledge and enforce orders by English courts.