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Abu Dhabi Judicial Department Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) is at the forefront of judicial innovation within both the Middle East region and internationally. As a court, it has shown an ability to adhere to and respect historic and religious principles whilst implementing change to evolve in conjunction with the country’s ambitious economic plans.

As stated by Yousef Saeed Khamis Al Abri, Undersecretary of ADJD, ‘As a Court, we aimto set world class legal and judicial standards to meet the needs of Abu Dhabi’s large multinational community’.

The Judicial Department adapted swiftly to the problems faced by the pandemic by digitalising almost all procedures, including the introduction of a virtual litigation system. Indeed, it was one of only a handful of courts from around the world that remained open throughout.

This was a big adjustment from the standard court procedures which largely required in-person attendance, however, both litigants and the judiciary soon reaped the benefits and digital litigation is here to stay.

Interactive registration system

A more recent development is the interactive registration system which was launched in August 2021. This system helps applicants identify their claim types and asks them to answer a series of questions.

When all of the questions have been answered, the system will automatically generate a claim formant relies upon artificial intelligence to produce the form in both Arabic and English. Furthermore, the applicant’s details will be obtained via the UAE pass system, which saves significant timeand effort.

A month before this, a Small Claims Court was established to provide a fast track procedure for those with lower value claims, helping litigants save both time and money.

Efforts to modernise the judicial environment commenced long before the pandemic. A landmark move was the introduction of the bilingual court project in 2018. This entailed the court adopting English as a second language and reforming legislation to require claimants to provide an English translation of court documents when the defendant is a non-Arabic speaker.

The primary issue within the court system is language given the diversity of the country, therefore such developments are very well received by residents, tourists and foreign investors.

Foreign Expert Chamber

In 2019, a decision was issued establishing a Foreign Expert Chamber within the Commercial Court. This saw the appointment of well renowned American and British legal experts, making history as the first mainland court in the Middle East to hire non-Arabic judges. Such chamber offers an international perspective whilst applying UAE law.

The Undersecretary stated, ‘The appointment of foreign judges shows the world that Abu Dhabi Judicial Department is a multilingual and forward thinking world class court. We benefit from this by ensuring that we apply the highest standards when helping litigants resolve a dispute’.

In terms of developing the judicial environment for court employees, there is a Judicial Academy whose role is to provide judicial and legal training, improving fairness, excellence, transparency and predictability. The Academy also offersregular training to legal professional in the region to assist in increasing competence and to ensure they keep up to date with legislative changes.

The development of the judicial environment in Abu Dhabi is constantly evolving to enable more transparency and greater access to justice. As highlighted above, this is achieved by utilising technological advances and employing ambitious, intelligent and driven individuals, from UAE citizens to legal experts from around the globe.

ADJD recognises that there is always going to be room for improvement and it will therefore be of great benefit to citizens, residents and foreign investors to follow the progress of future court initiatives.

Chloe Syron is a Legal Researcher in the Undersecretary Technical Office at Abu Dhabi Judicial Department