The UAE Has Taken a Significant Step Forward in Confirming the Enforceability of UK Court Judgments in the UAE Under the Principle of Reciprocity
On 13 September 2022, the director of the International Cooperation Department of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ministry of Justice issued a communiqué to the director general of the Dubai courts confirming the enforceability of United Kingdom (UK) court judgments in the UAE based on Article 85 of the Implementing Regulations to the UAE Civil Procedure Code and the satisfaction of the principle of reciprocal enforcement between the two jurisdictions.
Historically, the enforcement of foreign judgments in the UAE has been significantly easier where the jurisdiction issuing the judgment has entered into a bilateral treaty with the UAE for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments.
There is currently no bilateral treaty between the UAE and the UK for the recognition and enforcement of judgments. The judicial assistance in civil and commercial matters treaty between the UK and the UAE, dated 7 December 2006, does not address the enforcement of foreign judgments. Accordingly, the enforcement of UK judgments in the onshore UAE courts is subject to the provisions of UAE law.
Article 85 of the Implementing Regulations to the UAE Civil Procedure Code sets out the criteria that must be satisfied for a foreign judgment or order to be enforceable in the UAE. Article 85(1) provides that judgments and orders issued in a foreign state may only be enforced in the UAE under the same conditions as those prescribed in the law of the foreign state for the enforcement of judgments and orders issued in the UAE. Accordingly, the UAE courts will only recognize and enforce a foreign judgment or order where reciprocity exists between the UAE and the issuing jurisdiction.
ENFORCEMENT OF UAE JUDGMENTS IN THE UK
Following a hearing in January 2020, the English High Court (Court) agreed to recognize and enforce a Dubai court judgment in Lenkor Energy Trading DMCC v Puri  EWHC 75 (QB) (Lenkor). In that case, the defendant sought to resist recognition of the Dubai court judgment on the basis that to do so would offend the public policy of England and Wales. The defendant raised a number of public policy arguments including that: the underlying agreement was tainted by illegality; the personal liability of the defendant would amount to piercing the corporate veil; and the interest charged on the debt was excessive and therefore a penalty. The Court did not accept these arguments. The Court noted that it did not matter that the laws of the UAE differed from the laws of the UK, or that an English court might have approached matters differently to the UAE court; it was a Dubai court applying the law of Dubai. The Court was clear that for enforcement to be denied, the judgment had to offend English public policy, which it did not.
EVIDENCE OF RECIPROCITY
It is now clear that the UAE Ministry of Justice considers that the judgment in Lenkor and its status as binding judicial precedent is evidence that the requirement of reciprocity between the UK and UAE, as set forth in Article 85(1) of the Implementing Regulations to the UAE Civil Procedure Code, is satisfied. The UAE Ministry of Justice has therefore requested that the Dubai courts bear this in mind when considering the enforcement of judgments from the UK courts in Dubai.
In the absence of a mutual recognition and enforcement treaty in place between the UK and UAE, this communiqué—which reflects the official position of the UAE towards the enforcement of UK judgments—is a significant development that should help parties seeking to enforce UK court judgments in Dubai and the wider UAE.