International justice: DIFC Courts

Since DIFC Courts began operating in 2008, they have set an international benchmark for customer service and engagement. Reem Ali Al Shihhe, who recently represented the Courts in The Hague, shares what the establishment strives to achieve and why the world's leading courts may soon adopt its framework

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts strive to provide swift, transparent and independent justice to resolve financial, commercial and civil disputes in the UAE and beyond, and at the core is the service they provide.

They began operating in 2008, in order to create an independent, world-class English-language courts system based on common law. Last October, a decree was passed extending the jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts. This allows organisations and individuals working outside the DIFC (and indeed outside the country) to have access to the DIFC Courts, provided that both parties have agreed to this in advance. 

I was recently asked to go to The Hague – the home of international justice – to share the Courts’ ideas and expertise with 350 top international court administrators from around the globe.

Since the Courts’ inception, there has been a strong emphasis on customer engagement. The Hague was keen to learn how Dubai’s courts have developed new ‘best-practice’ in court-user engagement. The DIFC Courts have invested heavily in technology; it is one of the first to become a paperless court and to launch an e-Registry service, which handles every registration task, online, securely and efficiently.

New international studies show that the way people are treated in a court matters just as much as whether they win the case or not. The adoption of a world-class electronic case management system is necessary to improve the case hearing capabilities of the Courts, but it is ultimately the type of service experienced through sensitive engagement that will leave the lasting impression.

It is no secret that countries whose legal systems tend to protect investors and companies have a higher propensity to attract businesses. The choice of options now available in the UAE to people seeking to resolve their disputes, combined with the expanded jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts, has led to Dubai’s position as an international dispute-resolution centre.

Through upholding the principles of fairness and impartiality, and by consistently dispensing equal justice, the DIFC Courts have developed a reputation for operating to the highest international standards of legal procedure.