A landmark decision regarding reciprocity between the Courts of England and the United Arab Emirates

A landmark decision regarding reciprocity between the Courts of England and the United Arab Emirates

On January 25, 2024, a landmark decision was issued by the Dubai Court of Cassation, influencing the UAE’s legal landscape on enforcing English Court judgments. In Case No. 592 of 2023, the Court enforced an English judgment, citing compliance with Article 222 of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC).[1

Enforcement of foreign judgments in the UAE

The legal framework for recognition and enforcement procedures in the UAE are outlined in Article 222(2) of the CPC. These conditions include ensuring that the foreign judgment is ratified by the laws of the foreign jurisdiction, does not conflict with other UAE court judgments or violate the country's public order, and the judgement must have a res judicata effect according to the to the foreign jurisdiction’s applicable legislation.


Case background

In the proceedings related to divorce, the English Court issued a judgment concerning the division and transfer of matrimonial property and specifically involved two properties in Dubai. According to the English judgment, the husband agreed to transfer the two properties to the wife under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Subsequently, the wife sought to enforce this judgment in the UAE by filing a petition in the Dubai Execution Court under Article 222 of the CPC. The petition was accepted by the Execution Court and later confirmed by the Dubai Court of Appeal and the Dubai Court of Cassation.

This marks the very first judgement in its kind wherein the Dubai Court of Cassation has affirmatively ruled in support of enforcing an English judgment, asserting that the said judgment adhered to all criteria outlined in UAE law, notably meeting the reciprocity requirement.


Arguments against the decision

The husband’s main grounds of appeal include but are not limited to:

-       The case falls under the jurisdiction of the Dubai Courts due to the properties’ location within the jurisdiction.

-          The foreign judgment was deemed to violate UAE public policy and Sharia law.

-          The spouses have not yet been officially divorced under Sharia law or other foreign law.

-          Foreign law should govern the marriage and its financial implications.


The Dubai Court of Cassation dismissed the husband's appeal on the following grounds:

-          The foreign judgment did not violate public policy or Sharia law.

-          The husband had consented in the English proceedings to transfer the properties to the wife. Therefore, the UAE Execution Court’s mandate was limited to the enforcement of the English judgment in accordance with the husband’s prior consent.

-          Dubai Courts did not have exclusive jurisdiction.

-          Reciprocity was established with the UK under Article 222(1) of the CPC.


The Dubai Court of Cassation found that the case did not dispute in rem rights over the property located in Dubai, rather it revolved around the husband’s consent in transferring ownership of the properties to the wife. Additionally, the Court of Cassation found that the marriage and divorce occurred in the UK, with the husband accepting English law's application in the English Courts.


Reciprocity between the UAE and the UK

Traditionally, Dubai Courts required reciprocity, which often posed significant challenges to enforce posing foreign judgments. In order to address this, the MOJ issued a letter to the Director General of the Dubai Courts on 13 September 2022 encouraging Dubai court judges to consider the enforcement of English court judgements in the UAE. This positive signal by the MOJ was a result of the recent decision by the UK High Court in Lenkor in which reciprocity between England and the UAE was established.[2]

In Lenkor, a key argument against enforcement was that it would violate public policy for English Courts to enforce the Dubai judgment due to allegations of underlying transaction illegality. However, the High Court dismissed this argument, emphasising that the underlying issue was not whether the transaction violated public policy but whether there was a public policy reason to reject enforcing the Dubai Court judgment.


Future implications

The Court of Cassation's recognition of reciprocity with the UK is anticipated to have a positive impact on enforcing English judgments in the UAE. Case No. 592 of 2023's ruling could influence future UAE Court reasoning in relation to the reciprocal enforcement of judgments issued by the English Courts. This judgment eliminated a number of obstacles and highlighted the swift enforcement as the judge did not intervene in assessing the merits of the case but proceeded to enforce it directly in the UAE given that it met the requirements of the CPC.


How we can assist

With extensive experience in enforcing foreign judgments in UAE Courts, our team is available to discuss matters related to reciprocity between the UAE and the UK, including the implications of Dubai Court of Cassation Judgment No. 592 of 2023.


Authors :

  • Areen Jayousi


Contact phone: +971 50 284 2926

  • Mahmoud Hamed

Senior Associate – Dispute Resolution

  • Rowan Noor

Associate – Dispute Resolution

[1] Article 222 of Federal Decree-Law No. 42/2022, pertaining to the Civil Procedure Code.

[2] Lenkor Energy Trading DMCC v Puri [2020] EWHC 75 (QB)

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