DIFC Courts

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is a worldwide recognized financial hub that facilitates trade operations of numerous registered companies. It also houses the DIFC Courts, an autonomous judicial system and legal structure based on English common law. DIFC Courts help to build a healthy ecosystem that allows investment flows in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (MEASA) region’s rising economy.

Firms now have the option to select the dispute settlement platform that best meets their needs and represents the practical aspects of their industry. The choice of platform and jurisdiction for the resolution of contractual disputes is influenced by a variety of factors such as the governing law of the contract, the identity, nationality of the parties, the premise of the contract, etc. Dubai has demonstrated its commitment to assist local and international investors and enterprises by providing them with a range of world-class platforms for the settlement of business disputes.

What are DIFC Courts?

The DIFC Courts were constituted in Dubai to serve foreign organizations operating in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. His Highness, the late Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who was then Ruler of Dubai, established these courts in 2004.

These special courts were formed under the Dubai Law No. 12 of 2004 (as modified) and the DIFC Law No. 10 of 2004. These statutes, which govern the DIFC Courts’ authority, activities, and operations, are intended to provide greater flexibility, efficiency, and clarity in judicial proceedings that meet international standards.

The DIFC Courts in Dubai execute the English common law system to provide speedy and independent justice in civil and commercial disputes both locally and internationally.

The Jurisdiction

The DIFC Courts administer a distinct common law, English language jurisdiction that regulates commercial and civil conflicts on a national, regional, and global scale. They are located at the heart of Dubai’s financial powerhouse and are independent but complementary to the UAE’s Arab dialect and civil law system.

Only civil and commercial disputes are subject to the jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts. These courts statutes do not include criminal law proceedings. Any criminal concerns that may develop within the DIFC Dubai are forwarded to the proper external authorities.

Local UAE lawyers, foreign law firms and attorneys, and businesses can make the best use of the DIFC Courts by including the court’s jurisdiction in their agreements for conflict resolution.

Functions of DIFC Courts

DIFC Courts operate independently and in accordance with DIFC’s explicit laws and regulations. Debt collection, contractual infringement, employment concerns, global financial transactions, and other issues are some of the topics that these courts deal with. The claims and disputes that the DIFC Courts handle may involve:

  • Enterprises that operate within and/or incorporated under DIFC laws.
  • Contractual disputes involving the DIFC.
  • When the parties involved have signed a written contract to use the DIFC Courts.

Types of DIFC Courts and its services

The DIFC’s laws are enforced by specialized courts and services. The legal structure of the DIFC can be classified into four main types:

The Court of First Instance (CFI): The Court of First Instance performs single-judge procedures with full authority over all matters relating to:

  • The businesses operating inside and/or recognized under DIFC legislation.
  • Contractual disputes involving the DIFC.
  • Regulatory bodies, only if they subject to the laws of the DIFC.
  • When the parties involved in the dispute have agreed in writing to use the DIFC Court.
  • Any petitions that are under the DIFC Courts’ jurisdiction and are in accordance with DIFC laws.
  • Opposition and appeals to judgments issued by other DIFC entities.

Appeals made against the rulings of the Court of First Instance can be heard in the Court of Appeal.

Court of Appeal: In the DIFC legislative structure, the DIFC Court of Appeal is the highest court. This is an appellate court where litigants seeking legal redress can only challenge lower court rulings. New cases are not heard in this court. Only decisions that are already adjudicated can be appealed to the Court of Appeal for judicial review.

Small Claims Tribunal (SCT): In 2007, the DIFC Courts Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) was established to hear and settle certain claims that fell within DIFC jurisdiction. The SCT has a quick turnaround for dispute resolution and often handles disputes:

  • Where the subject matter or amount of the claim is less than AED 500K.
  • When the involved parties in an employment dispute have agreed in writing to have the claim handled by the DIFC Courts Small Claims Tribunal.
  • Cases that do not qualify under the first two clauses, but where the parties have agreed in writing that the claim should be decided by the SCT and the claim amount is worth less than AED 1 million.
  • The SCT will settle any further claims authorized by the Chief Justice.

Parties displeased with the SCT’s decision may obtain legal counsel before filing a case with the Court of First Instance (CFI).

International Arbitration: International arbitration is another key service provided by the DIFC Courts, primarily for firms in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. These courts use judges who are experts in international arbitration and follow common law principles in their hearings to adequately deal with:

  • Selection of independent arbitrators.
  • Application of interim measures for the period of arbitrary proceedings.
  • Explanation of arbitrary agreements.
  • Execution of the decision once the procedure concludes.

How are the DIFC Courts different from the Dubai Courts?

While both the courts are committed to justice and the rule of law, their court methodologies are substantially different, representing the two judicial systems in which they function. The DIFC Courts are part of the Dubai Court system. However, there are two key differences that distinguish them from other Dubai Courts – jurisdiction and the law they adhere to.

First, the DIFC Courts have only limited authority over civil and commercial matters. All other cases involving these issues are handled by Dubai’s civil courts. Second, the DIFC Courts make decisions based on English common law, while the civil courts in Dubai use the Federal Civil Procedural Law.

Why choose the DIFC Courts?

The DIFC Courts are an autonomous judicial system based on the common law English style, which is typically regarded as more dependable and transparent by international corporations. The DIFC Courts are made up of foreign judges who have handled a wide range of international commercial issues and have a track record of resolving matters fairly and quickly. The judges hail from England, New Zealand, and Malaysia, among other common law countries.

The legalities of the DIFC Courts are largely based on English civil procedure standards, and since English is the primary language of the DIFC Courts, all hearings are conducted in English. Consequently, there is no need to transcribe English language papers into Arabic. As a result of these factors, the DIFC Courts are widely regarded as being well equipped to handle the needs of modern business in the Middle East.

Bin Eid Advocates – Your local law firm

We are a premier DIFC law firm in Dubai. Our attorneys are well-versed in DIFC court law and have vast expertise in the English DIFC courts. Our lawyers routinely handle DIFC Courts litigation at the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance levels, as well as guide clients on Small Claims Tribunal case strategy and conduct.

We provide a comprehensive solution for all of our client’s legal needs, from entering the country and obtaining legal status to set up a business, counseling on corporate transactions, and finalizing employment agreements. Our advisors are legal professionals with credentials from a variety of international jurisdictions. Because of their education and experience, they provide high-quality legal counsel and competence in every instance.

Feel free to contact us to discuss the best options available to you which suit your legal requirements.


The DIFC Courts maintain high global norms in dispute resolution and are based on a well-known legal system which makes them an appealing venue for multinational firms to settle conflicts in the Middle East.

DIFC Courts have established themselves as a significant element of Dubai’s legal landscape. They took significant steps to solidify their position as a globally recognized legal system that is flexible, dependable, accessible, and reliable in dispensing fair treatment in accordance with the law and global best practice. They are open to all regional, local, and worldwide businesses, making Dubai one of the world’s most unusual, unique, and inventive dispute resolution jurisdictions.

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