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The UAE consists of seven emirates, together forming the Union and the UAE as a whole. Accordingly, the Union is considered a federal system for sharing sovereignty between a central governing authority and several different emirates.
When the Union was being formed, the Constitution was drafted to allow for each emirate, in addition to being affiliated to the federal system, to establish its own local courts. This option was sought by three emirates, namely Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, which have all established their own local courts.
However, there are specific circumstances in which it is mandatory for the Federal Courts in Abu Dhabi to adjudicate on a given matter. For example, a claim against a private company in Abu Dhabi would normally be filed before the local Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance. Where the defendant is a federal body, the claim has to be filed before the Federal Court of First Instance in Abu Dhabi.
Whether local or federal, all court systems are three-tiered, meaning that there are Courts of First Instance, Courts of Appeal and Courts of Cassation in both systems, as shown in the illustration above.
Federal Supreme Court
At the top of the federal court system is the Federal Supreme Court (“FSC”). Normally, the FSC looks into challenges made by litigants to judgments issued by the Federal Court of Appeal. Exclusively, the FSC retains jurisdiction, in certain circumstances, over exhaustive matters that no other type of UAE court could look into. For the purpose of this article, we shed some light on some of these matters.
Article 99 of the UAE Constitution states that the FSC shall decide on the following matters:
Consequently, and in certain circumstances, any matter touching upon the above issues would be reviewed, exclusively, by the FSC.
The following cases provide some examples of the work of the FSC:
Accountability of UAE Minister and Senior Officials / Interpreting the Constitution
Case Study 1:
Crimes relating to UAE’s security
Photographing restricted areas without approval
Case Study 2:
Case Study 3:
Forgery of official seals and documents:
Case Study 4:
Having a proper understanding of the UAE Court structure and the competencies of each court system is essential before filing any court case, to avoid any dismissal of your case for lack of jurisdiction or the unnecessary prolonging of the case that may occur in some instances.
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