Explanation of the judicial system of the United Arab Emirates: federal and local levels – civil law

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The judicial system in the United Arab Emirates operates at two levels. It operates at the federal and local level. At the local level, the relevant Emirates have their own judicial system and judicial departments, while the judiciary at the federal level controls courts and departments across the UAE.

The degrees of publicly accessible courts (federal and local) from which justice may be sought are as follows:

  1. The court of first instance.

  2. Court of Appeal.

  3. Court of Cassation at local level. The federal judiciary is headed by the Federal Supreme Court, which is the highest judicial authority in the United Arab Emirates.

According to Article 104 of the Constitution of the United Arab Emirates, the local judicial organs of each emirate have jurisdiction over all judicial matters which have not been entrusted to the federal judiciary under the Constitution.

As a result, Emirates like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al-Khaimah follow their own local judicial system and have established their independent judicial departments. On the other hand, the Emirates of Sharjah, Fujairah, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain are part of the federal court system.

A decision rendered by the Court of First Instance, which is the court of first instance, may be appealed to the Court of Appeal. The judgment of the Court of Appeal could still be appealed to the Court of Cassation or the Federal Supreme Court on limited grounds.

Court of First Instance

The courts of first instance have jurisdiction to hear civil, commercial, administrative, labor and personal status disputes. In criminal matters, the criminal courts (composed of either 1 judge or 3 judges) will be competent to hear cases of offences, contraventions and crimes.

Court of Appeal

Judgments and decisions rendered by the court of first instance may be appealed to the court of appeal. Under Section 158 of the Civil Procedures Act, the appeal may be filed on the basis of violation of jurisdiction related to public order, invalidity of judgment or proceedings which affected the judgment or decision, among others.

In criminal matters, the defendant and the public prosecutor may appeal the judgment rendered by the criminal courts of first instance. In accordance with Article 230 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the appeal does not have the effect of staying the execution of the contested judgment, unless otherwise decided by the court which rendered it.

Court of Cassation

An appeal may be lodged before the Court of Cassation against the decision rendered by the Court of Appeal in certain cases under article 173 of the Code of Civil Procedure. For example, if the contested judgment was based on a violation of the law or an error in its interpretation or application, or was rendered in violation of the rules of jurisdiction or if the decision was devoid of reasons, was inadequate or ambiguous, between others.

In criminal matters, the public prosecutor or the convicted person may challenge the decision rendered by the court of appeal in matters of crime or misdemeanor before the court of cassation for the reasons specified in article 244 of the code of criminal procedure. This applies in particular when the contested judgment is based on a violation of the law or an error in its application or interpretation, or if two contradictory judgments have been rendered on the same act, or if the judgment is devoid of any justification or if it is insufficient. or obscure, etc.

Special courts

Special courts have also been created within the UAE judicial system to deal with specific types of cases. These include labor courts, family law courts, commercial courts, etc. These courts hear the case that falls within their area of ​​jurisdiction.

Disputes to be brought before the Federal Courts

According to Article 99 of the UAE Constitution, certain disputes shall be heard by the Federal Supreme Court. These include: disputes between member emirates or between an emirate and the federal government, review of the constitutionality of federal laws challenged by an emirate, interpretation of provisions of the Constitution, crimes directly affecting the interests of United Arab Emirates, including crimes related to internal or external security, falsification of official documents, etc., among others.


The UAE justice system is proactive, efficient and tries to resolve issues quickly, while continuing to deliver justice to its people in a pragmatic manner.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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