Abu Dhabi, Countries, UAE|September 18, 2012 5:38 pm

Judicial System in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Judicial DepartmentThe judicial system in the UAE sets itself apart from its counterparts in the Arab World by functioning in a twofold legal framework which includes local judiciary and the federal judiciary. The relationship between the two systems is regulated by articles of the UAE Constitution (Articles 94 to 109), which describe the broad principles of both systems, while leaving the details to the discretion of local judiciaries without violating or contradicting the broad principles laid down by the constitution.

All emirates have Courts of First Instance and Courts of Appeal, either federal or local, in addition to the Sharia Courts which mainly deal with the matters of personal status, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance, among others. The primary source of legislation is Shari’a (Islamic Law), based on the Holy Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet.

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According to the UAE Constitution, all are equal before the law regardless of race, nationality, religion or social status. The Constitution protects human rights and prohibits torture and various forms of inhuman and degrading treatment. It also prevents arbitrary arrest, search, detention, imprisonment, and entering homes without the permission of owners.

The judicial system in the country, both in its local and federal forms, has presented an excellent model for rule of law and separation of powers over years. The system has significantly contributed to the community safety, economic and social stability, public accountability and administrative transparency and efficiency. As a result, the country tops the list of Arab countries in terms of the transparency of the judicial system.

Laws and Decrees

The development of laws in the UAE started with the birth of the UAE Union in 1971. A series of federal and local laws were developed with the purpose of regulating relations and ensuring the stability of transactions and the safety of society. The website of the Ministry of Justice includes a useful database containing many federal laws of regular application.

Federal Laws: Federal laws are issued under the provisions of the UAE Constitution. Before becoming a law, a bill, or a draft law, is prepared by the Cabinet and submitted to the Federal National Council, the fourth authority in the hierarchy of federal authorities, for its review, recommendations and amendments, if any. The bill is then submitted to President of the country for approval and presentation to the Federal Supreme Council, the highest constitutional authority in the country, for ratification. After the ratification of the Council, the President signs it and issues the law.

Federal laws are published in the Official Gazette of the UAE within a maximum period of two weeks from the date of signature and issuance by the President and are effective after one month from the date of publication unless another date is specified in the law itself.

Laws Issued by Decrees: The President, together with the Cabinet, issues urgent federal laws in between the sessions of the Supreme Council in the form of decrees, which have the force of laws, provided that they do not violate the Constitution. Such decree-laws must be submitted for the consideration of the Supreme Council within a maximum period of one week for approval of rejection. If they are approved, they retain the force of law and the Federal National Council is notified about it at its next meeting.

Ordinary Decrees: Ordinary decrees are issued after approval by the Cabinet and the President, in accordance with their respective powers, and are published in the Official Gazette. Ordinary decrees are used for matters vested in the President under the Constitution, including international treaties and appointments of some public officials. The duration of an ordinary decree varies depending on the nature of the decision.

Cabinet Decisions: Cabinet decisions are used for matters which do not require a law or a decree, but which is beyond the authority of an individual minister or the head of an institution. They are issued to regulate the work of government and to ensure that ministries and other institutions perform their functions according to the mandate.

Local laws: The process of issuing local laws in Abu Dhabi Emirate begins with the Executive Council referring a draft law to the National Consultative Council. As per the Article No. 6 of the Law No. (2) of 1971, the Executive Council should present all local draft laws to the Consultative Council during its gathering to discuss and make recommendations. The draft law is then submitted to the Ruler of the Emirate to sign it and issue as a law.

Local laws may be issued without referral to the National Consultative Council during its vacation provided that the council shall be informed about the law in its first meeting after the vacation.

Local Judicial System

According to the UAE Constitution, each of the seven emirates has the right to either join the federal judicial system or to maintain its own judicial system. The local judicial authorities in each emirate can look into any judicial matters not assigned to the federal judiciary under the provisions of the Constitution. The jurisdiction of local judiciary covers 80 per cent of the country’s area and nearly 75 per cent of the nation’s entire population.

Abu Dhabi Courts
Abu Dhabi Courts were formed under the Law No (23) of 2006 which restructured Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD). Abu Dhabi Court System follows three stages of litigation, Court of First Instance, Court of Appeals and Court of Cassation. Abu Dhabi Courts report to the Judicial Council. Each court is presided over by a president supported by a number of judges and skilled administrative staff.

To know more about the court system in Abu Dhabi, please find the relevant link in the right column of the page.

Federal Judicial System

The federal judiciary in the UAE began in 1973 with the issuance of the Federal Law No. (10) of 1973 establishing the Federal Supreme Court. The federal judiciary comprises the Federal Supreme Court, Federal First Instance Courts and Federal Appeal Courts.

Federal Supreme Court
The Federal Supreme Court is the highest federal judicial authority in the country and Abu Dhabi is the seat of the Federal Supreme Court (Court of Cassation). The Federal Supreme Court consists of a president and a maximum number of five judges appointed by a decree issued by President of the UAE after approval by the Supreme Council. The rulings of the Federal Supreme Court are final and binding on all.

The Federal Supreme Court looks into matters such as various disputes erupting between the member Emirates in the UAE Union, or between one or more Emirate and the Federal Government, the constitutionality of federal and other laws and legislations, conflicts of jurisdiction between the federal and local judicial authorities in the country, conflict of jurisdiction between the judicial authority in one Emirate and another and crimes directly affecting the interests of the Union. It is also in charge of interpreting the provisions of the constitution and questioning ministers and senior federal officials appointed by a decree for official misconduct.

Criminal Procedural Law – UAE E-Legal Portal. Further details on procedures for criminal cases can be found under the UAE Criminal Procedural Law – UAE E-Legal Portal

Responsibilities of the UAE President

Responsibilities of the UAE President includes sign and issue federal laws, decrees, and decisions endorsed by the supreme council; Supervise the execution of federal laws, decrees and decisions through the federal cabinet and competent ministers; Any other power vested in him by the Supreme Council or vested in him in conformity with this Constitution or the federal law…Read More

An autocratic model criminal justice system

The UAE Federal Law No.35 of 1992 envisages many protective measures under the law. What the rulers practice is exactly the opposite of what they preach; making the UAE Constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery! Just imagine a situation when the “protector” beheads the distressed who approach for protection!…Read More

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