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A country’s strength ties in with the success of its legislative, judicial and executive authorities. The function of the judiciary is to promote justice and equity through the proper application of laws and regulations in order to give every man his due.
The UAE leaders have demonstrated their interest and commitment to the judiciary since the founding of the UAE by setting up courts and public prosecution departments in all the Emirates and facilitating the work of the judiciary in line with its goals and mission. This has reinforced the UAE’s positive image in the international community as a country with a modern system of justice that is fair and impartial regardless of gender, religion or colour.
The UAE judiciary has undergone many changes over the years and is still being developed to effectively administer justice, consistent with the government’s general policy towards its various sectors. Besides the establishment of courts and the enactment of legislation, the introduction of electronic services has facilitated many aspects of the litigation process with courts being able to dispense justice quicker to the point that swift case resolution and service quality have become the norm despite heavy caseloads. Among the developments witnessed by the judiciary over the past few years is the diversity of cases. Specialized courts and special committees have been established and assigned to handle certain types of cases with unique features. These developments extend beyond the work of the courts and encompass the public prosecution and its services, particularly online services.
The developments further encompass the work of lawyers and legal consultants. There has been a growing interest in regulating the legal profession in what seems to be a serious move towards advancing the profession given the importance of this vital sector and its influential role in the judicial system.
While it is important to discuss the developments witnessed by the judiciary, the question remains: Are these achievements the pinnacle of our ambitions and aspirations or does the work of the judiciary still face many challenges which need to be overcome?
Of course, there are many challenges to overcome in order to prove the ability of the judiciary to keep pace with the developments and plans the UAE is pursuing as an active member of the international community.
The judiciary is one of the most important factors in the success of any country aspiring to attract investment and build successful international relations. A fair and modern judicial system is needed to gain the confidence of the international community. Hence, responsibility for the development of the judiciary does not rest with any particular entity or department in the UAE and requires collective action on the part of several entities in order to reach the desired end. The efforts required to achieve that end and overcome the challenges of the next phase include:
The Role of the Ministry of Justice:
This Ministry has complete oversight of the courts and prosecution departments across the federation in terms of recruiting judges and organising the work of the courts and prosecution departments. In addition to the recruiting, the Ministry regulates and licenses lawyers, experts and interpreters.. First and foremost the Ministry of Justice’s responsibility to develop the work of the judiciary are highlighted in the following examples below:
Deciding to have specialist courts is quite beneficial but it would be even better if we could have a qualified judicial cadre with a high level of specialisation in the above fields and other legal fields so that the call for establishing specialist courts can come to fruition with practical results.
Likewise, with the public prosecution, there is a need to qualify a new generation of public prosecutors to deal with modern crimes of an exceptional nature. Criminal law is now a different discipline in terms of both methodology and subject matter. Today, an innovative approach is necessary to investigate the new forms of crime which are on the rise e.g. cyber crime, corruption, fraud and deception in commercial transactions, human trafficking and terrorism.
Drawing from my experience, I recall ten years ago, there was a shortage of lawyers and the government had to steer law graduates towards the profession in order to fill the void. With that trend reversed, the ministry can now focus on quality rather than quantity. It is now time to prepare our young people to take the lead in this profession by subjecting them to theoretical and practical tests for a period of at least a year which would culminate in their admission to practice before the trial courts, as is the current practice. The immediate focus, moving forward, should be to implement a minimum number of professional development courses and professional conferences which lawyers need to attend each year in order to renew their licences (continuing education) with the aim of enhancing their personal and professional skills in keeping pace with developments in the larger legal industry and the economy, thus developing both the profession and the skills of the practitioner.
Likewise, with experts, only the best experts and interpreters should be licenced and accredited by the Ministry of Justice. Assistance can be sought from international auditing and consulting firms in the UAE to develop the work of experts in the fields of accounting, engineering consulting, auditing and various other disciplines, using timelines and practical programs designed to raise the standard of their work which is important to most cases before the UAE courts
The Role of Universities and Judicial Institutes- Recommendations
University law schools in the UAE have a responsibility to develop both the theoretical and practical knowledge of their students as follows:
The Role of Judicial Training Institutes and Legal Institutions:
The Role of Law Firms:
UAE based law firms and multinational law firms have an important role to play within the UAE judicial system as a key component which, apart from providing services to their clients, can significantly contribute to the effectiveness and performance of the UAE judiciary in the following ways:
In summary, this overview of the contribution various parties can make to the development of the judiciary underscores our appreciation for the ongoing efforts to improve the functioning of the judiciary. As mentioned earlier, we do realise that there are still many challenges ahead if the industry is to reach the desired objectives. Concerted efforts are needed in order to advance the UAE legal community as a world-class centre of professional excellence.