Wednesday, October 29, 2008

UAE legal system from global perspective

Although the core principles of law in the UAE are drawn from Sharia, most legislation is comprised of a mix of Islamic and European concepts, which have a common root in the Egyptian legal code established in the late 19th to 20th centuries. The French influence is most clearly demonstrated by the adoption of the civil law systems by most countries in the region similar to those in European states, rather than the common law system in the UK.

Civil law systems rely primarily on statute law (and often a written constitution) and detailed codifications of this; this influence of case law and precedent, or previous decisions made by the court, that is central to the interpretation of statute law in a common law system, is minimal. Instead, in addition to specific legal legislation covering agencies, company law, labour law, and intellectual property, the UAE has enacted civil and commercial codes that embody the basic principles of these laws. Although the system has lead to the development of comprehensive and structured legal systems, these are rigid and inflexible to some degree, and this constitutes the bureaucracy of regulation that is associated with countries in the Middle East region as a whole.

The structure of the legal system is complex with both dual courts, Sharia courts and civil courts operating in parallel, but covering different areas of the law. For example in the UAE, each Emirate has its own federal court of first instance, although Dubai and Ras al Khaimah have their own separate judicial frameworks

All laws are published in Arabic, in the official gazette, which is equivalent to the statute book in the UK. Although English transactions of some laws are available, these are not official translations. All documentation submitted to the court or issued by them is in Arabic, and all court proceedings are conducted in Arabic, making good business for translation services.

Although published in Arabic, contractual documentation can be executed in English, provided the necessary formalities are observed, for example registering with the appropriate ministry. However, when registering official documentation, an Arabic translation will often have to be submitted at the same time. Contracts are equally valid in both languages, although sometimes it is stated that Arabic will be the main source in case of confusion. If documents need to be submitted to a court, it has to be in Arabic.