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The legal system of U.A.

In December 2nd 1971, United Arab Emirates was declared as a united, independent and sovereign
state encompassing of seven emirates, i.e. Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Um
Al Quwain and Al Fujairah.
Glance about United Arab Emirates
The President of the Country: H.H. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan (may Allah Bless him)
The Population: 4.320 Million (Estimations of 2005).
The Capital: Abu Dhabi
The Seven Emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Um Al Quwain and Al
Area: 83.600 square kilometers
The Religion: Islam
The Language: Arabic Language is considered the official language in the country whereas the
English Language is widely used as far as the commercial and economic domains are concerned.
The Local Timing: The timing of United Arab Emirates precedes the Grenache timing by four hours.
(Grenache + 4).

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 of civil law, 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 by most countries in the region similar to those in European states,
rather than the common law system in the UK.
In addition to specific legal legislation covering agencies, company law, labor law, and intellectual
property, the UAE has enacted civil and commercial codes. 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 .
UAEs Legal System as of the other Legal systems in the Gulf is usually quite complicated and those
unfamiliar with their workings can find this very difficult. The fact is that these systems are completely
different to those in the west with a whole different language, which makes it worrying for those who
want to transact in business in the UAE and the Gulf states.
Although these systems are different, the basic legal principles and structure are logical and
understandable. They have evolved over many centuries, in a similar way to the West and, especially
in the UAE, are adapting to the changing needs of society with new developments in thinking for a
modern age. More changes in commercial law have liberalized legal regimes, creating a more open

The basis of the legal system in the UAE is Sharia or Quranic Law. In the constitutions, Islam is
identified as the state religion as well as the principal source of law. However, although the principles
of Sharia influence criminal and civil laws, the direct influence of Sharia in the UAE is primarily
confined to social laws, such as family law, divorce or succession. Most commercial matters are now
dealt with by either civil courts or permanently established arbitration tribunals.
There are several core principles of Sharia which apply to business transactions and which have
influenced the development of commercial codes that apply in the UAE. Although these concepts
don't directly translate into commercial codes (although they may do in Islamic finance), they have
exerted an influence over the drafting and interpretation of these laws. These are:

1. Usury or charging of interest (riba) is forbidden) According to Sharia, money is not a

commodity, that can be traded, nor does it have a value over time if left unused. Therefore interest
earned is an unjust income.
2. Risk should be shared As income can not be derived from interest payments, investors should
share in profits or losses of an investment in proportion to the amount that the put into the transaction,
and thus the level of risk they undertook.
3. Uncertainty (gharar) in a contract is prohibited: Both parties must undertake a contract with full
knowledge of all the terms. This means that the amount of capital or goods should be agreed in
advance and stipulated in the contract.
4. Competence As is the case in most legal jurisdictions, the law also specifies that the parties in a
contract must possess the legal capacity to understand and assume the obligations of the contract.
5. Consent The parties to a contract should enter into it of their own free will and should not be
subject to coercion or duress.
The constitution describes five federal institutions. These are the Federal Supreme Council (FSCexecutive), the President of the Union and the vice president, the Council of Ministers of the Union,
the Federal National Council (FNC-legislative), and the Judiciary of the Union.
The Federal Supreme Council elected Abu Dhabis President Shaikh Zayed unanimously for the sixth
time on December 2, 2001 as the President of the Union.
The Council of Ministers drafts decrees and various decisions. The prime minister and the members
of the cabinet are responsible to the president and to the Federal Supreme Council (FSC), which is
the highest executive body in the federation, made up of the rulers of the seven emirates.
Traditional and modern forms of government coexist and supplement each other. Although political
leaders in the emirates are not elected, citizens may express their concerns directly to their leaders
via traditional mechanisms, such as the open majlis , or informal assembly.

The constitution prohibits torture or degrading treatment and prohibits arrest, search, detention, or
imprisonment, and entry into homes without the owner's permission, except in accordance with the
law. It provides for the independence of the judiciary, but its decisions are subject to review by the
political leadership. The constitution also in Article 25 states that all persons are equal before the law
and there shall be no discrimination between citizens of the Union in regard to race, nationality,
religious belief or social status. And Article 28 points out that Penalty is personal, an accused person
is presumed innocent until his conviction is proved before a court of law wherein the necessary
guarantees of the right of self-defense are secured, The law shall prescribe the cases in which the
presence of a counsel for defense shall be assigned and physical and moral abuse of an accused
person is prohibited. Article 27 adds that Crimes and punishments shall be defined by the law & No

penalty shall be imposed for any act of commission or omission committed before the relevant law
has been promulgated.
Issuance of laws
Part 5 of UAE constitution explains the process of legislation in the UAE which is:

Administrative Structure
The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven Emirates. The legislative branch is the unicameral
Al-Majlis Al-Watani Al-Ittihadi, or Federal National Council (FNC). Twenty of the FNC's 40 members
are elected by 7000 notables who are chosen by the local governments to represent various social
groups and tribes. The other twenty are appointed by the rulers of the Emirates to serve a two-yearterm of office with the possibility of renewal. The selection process of the FNC members is left by the
constitution to the Emirates' discretion. Of the 40 members the share of Abu Dhabi and Dubai is 8
members each. Sharjah and Ras al Khaymah have 6 members each, and Ajman, Umm al Oaywayn,
and Al Fujayrah each have four members on the Federal National Council.

The FNC reviews legislation and proposes amendments to it, but it does not have the power to veto
laws or to initiate new laws. As such, the parliament is largely a consultative body. The Council,
however, does have the power to examine and amend proposed legislation and the power to summon
and question any federal minister as well as its own members. One of the main duties of the FNC is to
discuss the annual budget.

Sessions, Dissolution, State of Exception

The beginning and termination of legislative sessions are determined by presidential decree.

Legislative Drafting Processes

Federal laws are drafted by the Council of Ministers and are then submitted to the FNC, where they
are first sent to the proper committee. If a committee makes amendments to the proposed draft by the
executive, the amended draft goes to the Legal and Legislative Committee, before the floor debate,
for consultation and formulation of its provisions. Finally, the draft is presented to the president of the

Official Gazette
Article 111 clearly states that Laws shall be published in the Official Gazette of the Union within a
maximum of two weeks from the date of their signature and promulgation by the President of the
Union after the Supreme Council has ratified them.

Law enforcement
Article 112 clearly states that no laws may be applied except on what occurs as from the date they
become in force and no retroactive effect shall result in such laws however if necessity so requires ,
the law may stipulate the contrary in matters other than criminal .
Responsibilities of Federal Supreme Council

The Federal Supreme Council performs the responsibilities outlined below:

1- Formulating the general policy on all matters invested in the federation under the constitution, and
considering all matters that could lead to the achievement of the objectives of the federation and the
common interests of the member emirates.
2- Endorsing the various federal laws prior to their issuance including laws of the annual general
budget of the federation and the closing accounts .
3- Sanctioning the decrees on matters that by virtue of the provisions of the constitution are subject to
the ratification and approval of the Federal Supreme Council. Such sanctioning takes place prior to
issuance of such decrees by the president of the council .
4- Ratification of treaties and international agreements. Such ratification is done by accomplished by
5- Approving the appointment of the prime minister of the federation, accepting his resignation, and
requesting him to resign upon the suggestion of the President of the Federation .
6- Approving the appointment of the president and the judges of the Supreme Federal Court,
accepting their resignations, and dismissing them in the cases specified by the constitution. Such
actions are done by decrees.
7- Supreme control over the affairs of the federation in general.
8- Any other relevant responsibilities stipulated in the constitution or in the federal laws .
Criminal actions in the UAE commence with the filing of a complaint with the local police in the
jurisdiction where the offense was committed. During the investigation, police may take the
statements of any parties involved. Following this initial investigation, local police usually refer the
matter to the prosecutor's office within 48 hours of the filing of the complaint. The police may refer the
matter to the prosecutor for advice prior to officially forwarding the case with a recommendation to
press charges.
The prosecutors office will then investigate the matter, take the statements of any parties involved,
and hear their witnesses or any other person the prosecutor decides has information germane to the
matter. The prosecutors office will then decide either to refer the matter to the court or to decline to
press charges in the absence of sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed. The prosecutor
must decide either to press charges or drop the case within 14 days of receiving the case from the
police. If the prosecutor needs more time to reach a decision, he may file a request for extension with
the court, which is approved or denied at the courts discretion. Although it happens extremely rarely
and only in extenuating circumstances, cases have been known to sit with the prosecutor as long as a
Sharia or Islamic Courts
Sharia or Islamic courts work alongside the civil and criminal courts in the UAE. The Sharia court is
the Islamic court in the UAE and is primarily responsible for civil matters between Muslims. NonMuslims will not appear before a Sharia court in any matter. Sharia courts have the exclusive
jurisdiction to hear family disputes, including matters involving divorce, inheritances, child custody,
child abuse and guardianship of minors. In the absence of any particular provision in the UAE codified
law, the Islamic principles of Sharia as found in the Islamic Sharia textbooks are applied.
The Sharia court may, at the federal level only (which, as mentioned earlier, excludes Dubai and Ras
Al Khaimah), also hear appeals of certain criminal cases including rape, robbery, driving under the
influence of alcohol and related crimes, which were originally tried in lower criminal courts.
The Court of Cassation
The Court of Cassation is the highest court in the UAE, and it will only hear disputes on matters of
law. The Court of Cassation will not only act as an appellate court with respect to the decisions of

lower courts, but will also supervise these lower courts to ensure that they are applying and
interpreting the law correctly. Lower courts must abide by the legal principles set down by the Court of
The Emirate of Dubai has its own Court of Cassation. In all Emirates other than Dubai and Ras Al
Khaimah, the final appeal will be to the federal Supreme Court located in Abu Dhabi.
Drafted 22 March 2005. Based upon an article entitled The Courts System in the UAE, by Mohamed
Ali Abou Sakr, Liberty magazine, Issue 03, March 2005. Edited for content and to include post
research into the topic.

Constitutionality of Laws Judicial Review

The Court of Cassation is also entrusted with judicial review for all legislation, both for laws that
originate at the federal level and for those enacted by the individual emirates.

Provincial and Local Government

Each of the seven emirates has its own government, which functions in tandem with the federal
government. The largest and most populous emirate, Abu Dhabi, has its own central governing body,
the Executive Council, chaired by the crown prince; the Eastern and Western Regions and the island
of Das are headed by a rulers representative. Municipalities administer the main cities, each of which
has a municipal council. The National Consultative Council functions like the Federal National
Council. Local departments carry out various administrative functions. A similar system of
municipalities and departments exists in the other emirates.
Article one of the constitution provides that the Union consists of the following Emirates Abu Dhabi,
Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman ,Umm Al Quwain ,Fujairah & it is allowed for any independent Arab country to
join the Union, once approved by the Supreme Council of the Federation at a unanimous consensus
(Ras Al Khaimah joined the Federation of the United Arab Emirates in February 10, 1972,).
Article 116 shows that the Emirates shall exercise all powers not assigned to the Union by this
Constitution. The Emirates shall all participate in the establishment of the Union and shall benefit from
its existence, services and protection while article 117 describes the targets of the rule in each emirate
which are maintaining security and order within its territories and the provision of public utilities for its
inhabitants and the raising of social and economic standards. And further article 118 states that The
member Emirates of the Union shall all work for the co-ordination of their legislations in various fields
with the intention of unifying such legislations as far as possible & adds that it is allowed, after
obtaining the approval of the Supreme Council, for one emirate or more to agglomerate in a political
or administrative unit, or unify all or part of their public services or establish a single or joint
administration to run any such service. In connection with the matters regarding to the execution of
judgments and requests for commissions of rogation and serving legal documents and surrender of
fugitives between member Emirates of the Union, Article 119 provides that it shall be regulated with
utmost ease by Union law.