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The debate in our blog today is focused on the UAE legal system, and we’ll explain why right away. One of the most vibrant and rapidly expanding nations in the world is the United Arab Emirates.

It is also quickly becoming a preferred destination for jobs and enterprises due to its high-rise buildings, stunning beaches, state-of-the-art hotels, and luxurious lifestyle. Along with Emiratis, expats from almost 200 countries dwell here.

Expats make up the majority of the UAE’s population. Despite this, many of them are unfamiliar with the UAE legal system. So, before you relocate to the UAE, let us familiarize ourselves with the legal system.

If you want legal services in UAE, feel free to contact our law firm in Dubai.

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UAE legal system
the legal system in the UAE

Knowing anything about the legal and judicial systems of the countries you choose to live in is usually beneficial.

The UAE’s legal system is primarily based on civil law concepts, which are influenced by French, Egyptian, Roman, and Islamic foundations.

As a Muslim country, the UAE’s legislation is based on Islamic values. Although Islamic law concepts influence criminal and civil law, their direct impact in the UAE is mostly limited to social rules such as family law, divorce, and succession.

In addition, the UAE legal system is not heavily reliant on legislation (case law) and precedents (last decisions made for similar lawsuits). Each instance is considered separately.

Read more: The Federal Decree Law no. 33 of 2021(the “New Labor Law”)

Although subordinate courts generally accept the Cassation court’s decision, there is no legal obligation to do so. The parties’ pleadings are crucial in determining the outcome of the dispute.

The court hearings and paperwork are conducted in Arabic, the local language. Many competent translators are available to assist you in your endeavor.

In addition to adopting civil law, the UAE has a judicial law system that follows the common law system.The Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) courts operate in the UAE’s judicial law system.

Many foreign investors in this country were uncomfortable with the jurisdiction of local courts and didn’t comprehend the system, therefore the DIFC was established.

The UAE legal system & government recognizes this element and has made this crucial step to maintain the country’s expanding foreign investment.

Read more: How Can Your Lawyer Help You?


What is the Structure of UAE Constitution – UAE LAW

The UAE has a written constitution that was first established as a temporary constitution on December 2, 1971, and was then declared permanent by the Federal Supreme Council in 1971.

The UAE Constitution establishes the UAE as a sovereign, autonomous, and federal state in Article 1. In all areas not within the Constitution’s jurisdiction, each member emirate (of which there are seven) enjoys sovereignty over its own borders and territorial waters.

The UAE’s official religion is Islam. In the UAE, Islamic sharia law is the primary source of legislation, and Arabic is the official language.


The Governance System in United Arab Emirates

The UAE legal system is based on a federal constitutional structure that each emirate is bound by. Furthermore, the President of the Federation leads the UAE Federal Government.

What are the Constituents of the State?

Here are 4 of the main components of the country:

1-Supreme Federal Council (Supreme Council)

The rulers of all emirates make up this body, which is the UAE’s highest governmental authority. Before any federal laws are established, the Supreme Council approves and signs them, as well as decides the government’s policy on UAE political issues.

2-Ministerial Cabinet (Cabinet)

The Cabinet oversees the Federal Government and serves as the UAE’s advisory cabinet. The Cabinet administers UAE policy and drafts federal legislation and budgets for the Federal National Council to approve, with the Supreme Council finally enacting them.

3-National Federal Council (National Council)

The National Council makes advising choices and serves as a sounding board for the Cabinet and, ultimately, the Supreme Council.

4-The federal courts & the judicial systems of each emirate

According to the Constitution, each emirate has the authority to maintain its own UAE legal system, hence the UAE has both federal and municipal courts.

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Does the UAE Constitution Separate the Powers?

The issue of separation of powers comprising the executive, legislative, and judicial branches is somewhat supported in the UAE legal system. The several authorities within the UAE are defined under Article 45 of the UAE Constitution as follows:

1-Supreme Council

Under the supervision of the President of the Federation (President) and the Supreme Council, the Cabinet is responsible for all federal internal and foreign matters as stipulated by the UAE Constitution and federal legislation. (Article 60, UAE Constitution).

2-National Council

A person cannot be a member of the National Council and hold a public office in the UAE at the same time, including a ministerial position. (Article 71, UAE Constitution).

3-Judiciary

Judges are self-governing individuals who are exclusively affected by the rule of law and their own conscience (Article 94, UAE Constitution | UAE legal system).

The judiciary’s independence is a notion that is upheld to some extent in the UAE. The Judicial Council, on the other hand, is chaired by the Minister of Justice, who is also a Cabinet member, and the President, not the judiciary, appoints judges to the Supreme Court.


What is the Legislative Procedure?

Each emirate is allowed to have its own legislative body and judicial authority under the Constitution and UAE legal system, while emirates cannot legislate on certain specific issues that are solely the responsibility of the federal government, such as:

Foreign affairs, defence and security, currency, public health, and education.

Drafting and Proposal

The relevant Ministry, in collaboration with other ministers as needed and the Ministry of Justice, drafts the law or bill.

Scrutiny

The draft or bill is then presented to the National Council for review and approval before being published. If authorized, it is then discussed and approved for issuance by the Cabinet (the Council of Ministers).

The draft is reviewed by the National Council and it is a dynamic part of UAE legal system.

Enactment

The law will be reviewed by the President and then ratified by the Supreme Council. The measure is signed by the President. Unless otherwise stated in the legislation, a bill becomes law three months after it is published in the Official Gazette.

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The Court’s Overall Structure and Hierarchy

UAE legal system
UAE federal law & UAE federal government

A Supreme Court and a Federal Court of First Instance are established by the Constitution (Article 95). The Constitution also gives each emirate the authority to maintain its own UAE legal system.

As a result, the UAE has federal courts as well as “local” courts. All judicial issues not assigned to the UAE federal courts by the Constitution are decided by the courts in each emirate.

The UAE’s federal judicial system consists of: Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, Courts of First Instance.

The Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi hears appeals from the Court of Appeal’s decisions.
The emirates of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Ras Al Khaimah all have their own legal systems. Their judicial systems are structured similarly to the federal court system.
There is a Court of First Instance and a Court of Appeal in the common law courts (at the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) in Abu Dhabi and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) in Dubai).


Examination of Evidence before Trial in the UAE Courts such as Dubai Court and Abu Dhabi Court

UAE legal system
uae federal data protection law

The court is in charge of analyzing and weighing the evidence presented in civil cases. The prosecutor reviews the evidence and evaluates whether there is prima facie evidence to warrant a trial in criminal matters.

According to UAE legal system and during a trial, the court is also in charge of examining the evidence to determine whether it is adequate for a conviction.

The investigation of the evidence must be done in writing. In civil proceedings, the court must issue a written decision that reviews and evaluates the facts presented.

The prosecutor must also issue a written decision in criminal matters. The prosecutor will determine whether to dismiss the complaint or refer the matter to the court for trial after reviewing the evidence.

What are the Cases in which Witnesses are Questioned?

In civil trials, witness examination is uncommon, except in unusual circumstances where written evidence cannot be offered. However, in criminal proceedings, witness examination:

  • The police will intervene at the complaint stage.
  • During the interrogation stage, the prosecutor will do so.
  • The court may intervene during the trial.

If the prosecutor isn’t really confident that there is enough evidence to proceed to trial in a criminal matter, the case can be dismissed. Evidence is only assessed and examined by the court at the stage of providing the judgment in civil matters, thus there is no such process.


In this blog, we covered a high-level overview of major legal concepts such as the constitution, the UAE legal system of government, and the general legislative process; the organization and hierarchy of the court; the Mechanism for examining evidence before making a final court decision, and many others.

Khairallah Advocates & Legal Consultants works to provide various legal services with experienced experts and lawyers. The best place to understand the UAE constitution and the relationships of different courts with each other, such as the Dubai Court and the Abu Dhabi Court.

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