UK lawyers have warned against putting the spotlight on Dubai as an international centre of arbitration. The comments come ahead of a seminar due to take place next month with the intention of promoting Dubai as a place to settle legal disputes.
The seminar is being developed with the involvement of the British Irish Commercial Bar Association (BICBA), cooperating with the Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) and the University of Dubai. David Casement QC, the chair of the BICBA, is also among the event’s speakers. The goal of the event is to promote Dubai and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a whole as a “world centre in arbitration,” as well as to host discussions and generate proposals on how this position can be strengthened and how the Dubai legal system could develop in the future.
However, a number of legal professionals in the UK, including both solicitors and barristers, have criticised the aim of promoting Dubai as an international centre of justice. They say that there are serious problems with the legal system of the UAE, and that this kind of spotlight should not be shone on the region until they are resolved.
Critics of the seminar and its message point out that the High Court in England and Wales has ruled against allowing individuals to be extradited from the UK to Dubai. The grounding for this decision and for their criticisms, they say, is that the Dubai justice system has a history of problems such as corruption, violations of human rights, and denying access to justice.
Much of the criticism has come from Detained in Dubai, which is based in the UK but specialises in the civil and criminal justice systems of the UAE. The organisation described the seminar as “fuelling propaganda that Dubai has an equivelently competent justice system.” A partner at the organisation, non-practising solicitor David Haigh, said “I have practised law in both the UK and the UAE but unfortunately, I myself have first-hand experience of the legal system in Dubai. I was wrongfully imprisoned, arbitrarily detained.”
Haigh continued: “At present, until the UAE judicial system undergoes significant reform, the DIAC can by no means, be considered a just, independent, safe or modern dispute resolution centre.”
Doughty Street Chambers barrister Ben Cooper was also critical, saying that he “would not recommend” the BICBA help to portray Dubai as a centre of dispute resolution. He went on to say that “The UAE needs to address and remedy judicial failings before it should be considered as a possible legal jurisdiction of choice.”