United Arab Emirates: The Reciprocal Enforcement Of Judgments, Orders And Arbitral Awards By The ADGM Courts And Abu Dhabi Judicial Department: A Recent And Important Development

Last Updated: 26 June 2018
Article by John Gaffney and Peter Smith

On 11 February 2018, the Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts ("ADGM Courts") and the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department ("ADJD") signed a memorandum of understanding ("2018 MoU") to allow the mutual and reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments, decisions, orders and ratified arbitral awards between the ADGM Courts and the Courts of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi ("the Abu Dhabi Courts"), which are overseen by the ADJD, without the need for the re-examination of the substance of the dispute on which they have been issued.

The 2018 MoU is a key step taken by the two courts to strengthen the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, "to cooperate and integrate with the various government entities towards the enhancement of the competitive position of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and to provide excellent government services." In his words, it is also wholly in accordance with Abu Dhabi's "vision of justice and equality, integrity and transparency, and innovation and excellence in judicial services".


The 2018 MoU has been signed pursuant to Article 13(11) of Abu Dhabi Law No. 4 of 2013, which provides for the enforcement of judgments, decisions and orders and arbitral awards ratified by the ADGM Courts in competent entities with jurisdiction outside the ADGM in accordance with the procedure and rules adopted by those entities. This provision extends to include agreements for memoranda of understanding between the Board of Directors of the ADGM's Court and the competent entities outside the ADGM. The 2018 MoU provides further clarity in terms of the specific processes for reciprocal enforcement, which Abu Dhabi Law No. 4 of 2013 did not cover.

In doing so, the 2018 MoU builds on the foundation laid down by an earlier MoU signed between the same parties in April 2016 ("the 2016 MoU"). This established a framework to create judicial cooperation procedures by both parties, specifically in respect to procedures for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments, decisions, orders and arbitration awards; the exchange of information; the creation of electronic services and communication between the court systems; and the delivery of education. In the words of the ADGM Courts' Chief Justice, the 2016 MoU was intended to contribute to "achieving the highest level of judicial performance in our own courts consistent with best international practice." The 2018 MoU provides a conclusive and more detailed framework for reciprocal enforcement and is undeniably a step forward from the 2016 MoU.

In signing the 2018 MoU, the ADGM Courts and ADJD have demonstrated their determination that litigants will have the clarity and guidance they need regarding the enforcement of judgments in the judicial system of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Echoing the purposes of the 2018 MoU, the accompanying press release states that the 2018 MoU is intended to "contribute to the objectives of the Government of Abu Dhabi to enhance the international competitive position of the Emirate", to "create an environment capable of attracting investment by the realisation of competitive indicators" and provide the business and investor community with the "clarity and guidance they need" regarding enforcement.

The reciprocal process of enforcement under the 2018 MoU

The stated purpose of the 2018 MoU between the Courts is to "formalise the agreed procedures for the reciprocal enforcement of their judgments, decisions and orders, and arbitral awards ratified or recognised by them, without re-examining the substance of the dispute on which they have been issued." The requirements and procedures set out in the MoU are intended to encourage litigants to seek enforcement from the court in whose jurisdiction the subject of enforcement is situated, whether within the ADGM's jurisdiction or within the wider Emirate.

The types of executory instrument covered by the 2018 MoU include all final judgments, judgments for expedited enforcement, and decisions and orders made by the ADJD or ADGM Courts. In addition, the judgments also include ratified or recognised arbitral awards rendered by the ADJD and ADGM Courts. Such arbitral awards are to have the same force as a judgment of either of the courts without the requirement of any further ratification or recognition by the other court. Mutual recognition and enforcement also extends to include court-approved settlement agreements (known as 'memoranda of composition') certified by either court.

For the enforcement of an Abu Dhabi Court-rendered judgment by the ADGM Courts, where the subject of enforcement is situated within the ADGM, an executory formula from the sending court in English must be affixed on the original judgment. The judgment creditor must submit an application to the ADGM Courts in accordance with the ADGM Courts' Procedure Rules and Practice Directions. The enforcement judge at the ADGM Courts will then apply the enforcement procedures set out in the Procedure Rules without re-examining the merits of the original judgment.

For the enforcement of an ADGM Court-rendered judgment by the Abu Dhabi Courts, where the subject of enforcement is situated outside the ADGM but within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, an executory formula from the ADGM Courts must be affixed on the judgment in Arabic. Mirroring the process outlined above, the judgment creditor must submit an application to the Abu Dhabi Courts subject to the applicable Abu Dhabi Courts' rules and procedures. The enforcement judge in the Abu Dhabi Courts will then apply the enforcement procedures set out in Federal Law No. 11 of 1992 without re-examining the merits of the original judgment of the ADGM Courts.

The 2018 MoU also provides for deputising an enforcement judge from the respective Courts in instances where a judgment creditor registers a judgment issued in one Court for enforcement and where it requires actions or measures to be taken by the other Court. The Courts have agreed to assign an officer at each court to assist judgment creditors and to collaborate and liaise with the other court's officers so as to avoid any duplication of enforcement actions. Collaboration between the ADJD and ADGM Courts extends further to an agreement to keep, provide and publish all information and statistics in relation to any referrals and direct applications made under the 2018 MoU.

Enforcement of Foreign Judgments

The question arises whether the 2018 MoU will enable the enforcement of foreign judgments by the Abu Dhabi Courts, without reopening the merits of the underlying dispute, where they have already been recognized by the ADGM Courts.

ADGM Court Regulations (e.g., Articles 170, 171 and 180 of chapter 10 of the ADGM Courts, Civil Evidence, Judgments, Enforcement and Judicial Appointment Regulations 2015) allow for the enforcement of foreign judgments and foreign arbitral awards to be recognised by the ADGM Courts provided that the UAE has entered into an applicable treaty with the country in which the foreign award was rendered. In the absence of such a treaty, it is only if the Chief Justice of the ADGM Courts is satisfied that the foreign courts, which rendered the foreign judgment, have agreed to provide reciprocal treatment of recognition and enforcement for ADGM judgments, and having consulted Chairman of the Board, that he may direct that the courts of that foreign country be recognised foreign courts.

Likewise, the onshore Abu Dhabi Courts have been generally reluctant to enforce foreign judgments in the absence of an applicable international treaty for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments.

However, unlike the Abu Dhabi Courts, the ADGM Courts, like the DIFC Courts, have strong and developing international links, including with courts in England and Wales, Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore. The ADGM Courts have previously signed international MoUs with the Commercial Court, Queens Bench Division, England and Wales; Supreme Court of the Republic of Singapore; Federal Court of Australia; Supreme Court of New South Wales; and High Court of the Hong Kong special administrative region of the People's Republic of China. These international MoUs provide for enforcement of judgments of the relevant courts without re-examining the merits of their judgments when recognition suits relating to such judgments are filed before the ADGM Courts.

Hence, for a number of years, various paths have existed for the recognition of foreign judgments and arbitral awards by the ADGM Courts based on international treaties, agreements of reciprocity with recognised foreign courts or non-binding international MoUs without any re-examination of the merits of the dispute. The question remains whether the 2018 MoU will enable foreign judgments so recognized by the ADGM Courts to be enforced by the Abu Dhabi Courts, without re-examining the merits of the dispute, solely pursuant to the framework provided by the 2018 MoU (since foreign judgments are not expressly included in the definition of "ADGM judgments" in the 2018 MoU).

This question has added significance in light of recent decisions of the Joint Judicial Committee, set up by Decree 19 of 2016, that decides on conflicts of jurisdiction between the DIFC Courts and the Courts of the Emirate of Dubai. The status of the DIFC Courts as a so-called "conduit jurisdiction" is questionable, which will no doubt prompt parties to look closely at the ADGM Courts as an alternative gateway for the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments by the onshore UAE courts.

Advances at the ADGM Courts

The ADGM is an international financial centre; it commenced operations on 21 October 2015. Established by UAE Federal Decree as a broad-based financial centre, the ADGM aims to position Abu Dhabi as a global centre for business and finance. It is intended to serve as a strategic link between the growing economies of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, and the rest of the world. It is comprised of three independent authorities: the Registration Authority, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority and the ADGM Courts. It is envisioned to enable registered financial institutions, companies and entities to thrive and operate within an international regulatory framework based on the common law. The ADGM is the second financial free zone in the UAE to have a commercial and civil court based on the common law system operating in English. It is the first jurisdiction to apply directly the English common law and certain English statutes.

The 2018 MoU comes as the ADGM Courts rolls out an innovative new eCourts document handling and communication system. The eCourts platform permits the integrated use of videoconferencing facilities, so that hearings can be held remotely, and allows for the filing and management of all court documents including electronic evidence bundles for trial.

A copy of the MoU – signed by Lord Hope of Craighead, the ADGM Courts Chief Justice, as well as representatives from the ADJD and ADGM – is available at https://www.adgm.com/media/256642/executed-mou-for-reciprocal-enforcement-between-adjd-and-adgm-courts-11022018.pdf

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions