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Charting a New Course: Examining the Implications of the Amendments to the UAE Arbitration Law

October 3, 2023

On 28 September 2023, the UAE Ministry of Justice introduced changes to the Arbitration Law through Federal Decree-Law No. 15/2023, amending the original Federal Law No. 6/2018. This amendment focuses on specific aspects of the Arbitration Law and has several key changes:

  1. Arbitrator Independence: There’s a stricter requirement for Arbitrators to maintain impartiality and independence. Any direct relationship between an Arbitrator and one of the parties that may cast doubts on the Arbitrator’s neutrality is now expressly prohibited.
  2. Membership Restrictions: Arbitrators cannot be members of controlling bodies within the Arbitration Institution. This restriction is unique to the UAE, as it’s not seen in French, Swiss, UK law, or the IBA Guidelines. However, an exception has been added which permits individuals from controlling bodies to act as Arbitrators if they satisfy eight specific conditions.
  3. Civil Liability for Violations: Any violation of the conditions established for Arbitrator appointments from supervisory bodies can result in the annulment of the award. Parties can also seek civil damages from the Arbitral Institution and the Arbitrator. This provision might deter violations and reduce the potential misuse of the exception.
  4. Foreign Evidentiary Rules: The new law gives the Tribunal the discretion to choose the applicable evidentiary rules unless these rules conflict with the UAE’s public policy. For instance, evidence acquired illegally, which might be acceptable in some jurisdictions, goes against UAE public policy.
  5. Modern Arbitration Methods: The place of arbitration can now be virtual or actual. Arbitration institutions are required to support modern technologies while adhering to UAE’s technical standards.
  6. Notice Period & Party Representation: The law grants the Tribunal the discretion to determine the adequacy of the notice period for hearings. It also emphasizes the requirement for documentary proof to confirm the authority of party representatives.

The amendments incorporate modern arbitration practices but also prompt concerns on how they’ll be interpreted and applied, particularly concerning foreign evidentiary rules and their potential clash with UAE’s public policy.

Article Contributors: Dr. Habib Al Mulla, Sally Kotb FCIArb, and Dr. Karen Seif.

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