Parties wishing to initiate legal proceedings abroad against UAE residents (company or person) may expect to have to undertake so in two different ways:
1. Diplomatic channels; or
2. Via registered courier.
The route will depend on whether or not a treaty is set in place between the country where the litigation is to take place and the UAE.
Generally, notifications of legal documents in the United Arab Emirates ("UAE") are done through diplomatic channels where a treaty exists between a country ("Country of Origin") and the UAE.
The procedure usually followed is that the court in the Country of Origin notifies the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the UAE, which will liaise with the UAE Embassy in the Country of Origin; after which the UAE Embassy coordinates internally with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Justice in the UAE, in order to notify the opponent in the UAE.
While the UAE has entered standalone mutual treaties with several countries, including (among others) France, India and China, there are some notable exceptions where no treaty exists, e.g. the USA, England, Germany or Russia.
The diplomatic route though a time-consuming process, is the best way to officially notify the opponents in the UAE where a treaty exists.
The Ministry of Justice in the UAE has recently made changes regarding service of legal documents from a country into the UAE where no treaty exists.
In such scenarios if a claimant wants to notify an opponent in the UAE that they are in the process to initiate legal proceedings in the Country of Origin; such notification of legal documents can be done through registered courier either from the Country of Origin or from within the UAE itself. This will depend on whether or not the Country of Origin's Courts allow such type of notification. An order granting leave to this notification will be subject to the discretion of the presiding judge.
It will be very important in order for the judge of the courts of the Country of Origin that the notification is properly documented. The more efforts to notify, the greater chance for the judge of the courts of the Country of Origin to be satisfied.
A WORD ON ENFORCEMENT
Though possible, it has been relatively very complex, long and difficult to enforce a foreign judgment via Dubai Courts, especially when there are no agreements or treaties between UAE and the Country of Origin. The main provisions in Law are listed under Article 235 to Article 238 of the UAE Civil Procedures Law in this regard.
However, under DIFC Law, the DIFC Courts generally recognize and enforce final and binding foreign court judgments regardless of whether the UAE has a treaty in place with the Country of Origin or not; subject to meeting certain requirements - mainly those matters that deal with civil and commercial disputes that are connected to the DIFC; or expressly submitted to its jurisdiction by contracting parties, as a gateway into onshore Dubai.
Significantly, once a foreign court judgment has been recognized by the DIFC Court, it then effectively becomes a DIFC Court judgment - and under Dubai law, DIFC Court judgments are automatically enforceable in the onshore courts of Dubai via the mutual enforcement mechanism which exists between the two court systems.
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.