On 13 September 2022, the UAE Ministry of Justice penned a letter to the Director General of the Dubai Courts in relation to “Enforcement of judgments rendered by English Courts: On the Principle of Reciprocity”. It is being heralded as a step in the right direction towards mutual enforceability of judgments between the UAE and the UK.
As acknowledged in the letter, currently no treaty exists between the UAE and the UK concerning the mutual recognition and enforcement of civil judgments. However, there is a gateway to achieving mutual recognition and enforcement in the form of Article 85 of the UAE Civil Procedure Code, which provides that judgments and orders issued in a foreign jurisdiction can be enforced in the UAE under the same conditions that apply to enforce judgments and orders provided for in the law of that foreign jurisdiction. It is widely understood to establish a principle of reciprocity whereby the UAE may enforce a foreign judgment where that foreign jurisdiction will enforce a judgment of the UAE.
The MoJ letter is not understood to be binding on the UAE courts, but it may serve to improve the prospects of English judgments being enforced in the UAE in future. Historically, reciprocity between the UK and UAE courts in enforcing each other’s judgments has been limited, but a beacon was lit when, in 2020, the English High Court enforced a Dubai Court judgment in Lenkor Energy Trading DMCC v Puri (2020) EWHC 75 (QB), a decision later upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2021. This decision set a precedent for the English Courts and as such is capable of being relied upon by the UAE Courts as satisfying the reciprocity principle, paving the way for the success of any future application to enforce English Court judgments in the UAE. Indeed, the MoJ in their letter expressly mentioned the Lenkor case and the precedent it establishes in the UK, finding it sufficient to meet the reciprocity principle, and pinned to it their “hope” that, “in the event of requests for the enforcement of judgments and orders rendered by the English courts, the requisite legal steps are taken in accordance with the laws in force in both countries, in order to consolidate the principle of reciprocity initiated by the English courts, and to ensure its continuity between the English courts and the UAE courts”.
The possible impact of any mutual recognition and enforcement between the UAE and the UK that flows from the MoJ’s letter is likely to be of interest not just to judgment creditors in the UK Courts, but to arbitral award creditors too, to the extent that the English Courts grant leave to enforce an arbitration award and enter judgment in terms of the arbitration award under section 66 of the UK Arbitration Act. Such a judgment may be enforced in the same manner as any judgment of the English courts, and so may be enforceable in the UAE.
It remains to be seen what practical impact the MoJ’s letter will have on the decisions of the UAE courts in enforcing English judgments and whether it will ultimately establish a reliable trend of mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments between the two jurisdictions, but it is certainly an encouraging sign.