A Guide to United Arab Emirates Legal System
By Ahmed Aly Khedr & Bassam Alnuaimi
Ahmed Aly Khedr is Lecturer of Law and Corporate Affairs holds LLB , BA of Police Science , LLM in (International Commerce & Private Law) from Ain Shams University , and Corporate Restructuring (CRMA) from Harvard Business School , he is a professional and specialist in Corporate Governance & Compliance Systems, Restructuring and Strategic Planning for Companies as well as preparation of educational and training programs in this field. He is also interested in the corporate affairs (Financial Crimes, Mergers and Acquisitions, Change Management, Human Resources, International Trade Law, Commercial & Corporate Laws, Commercial Contracts, Investor Relations, Corporate Social Responsibility, and the Department of Safety and Health). He provides consulting in corporate affairs, corporate Laws, corporate governance systems and administrative restructuring, in the USA and MENA; He has published scientific research on these topics in periodicals, scientific journals and international networks for research. Ahmed is PhD student in "corporate governance" and he has visited many universities and corporate governance centers in the United States and Europe (such as Harvard, Yale, New York University, and Colombia). He is an Academic Member of the European Corporate Governance Institute, Member of the Egyptian Society of Political Economy, Statistics and Legislation and the Egyptian Society of International Law. He advising ABCCG (Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce) on its bid for the first "Corporate Governance program for lawyers" in UAE & Arab region, and carried out this program.
Bassam Alnuaimi is a lawyer and a legal researcher; he has been registered as a lawyer in Syrian bar association, under membership number 1990. He has B.A. from the University of Damascus (faculty of law) and a Master of laws (LLM) in IBL (International Business Law). The University Of Manchester, school of law, the UK. He is a professional and specialist in International financial services regulations, Principles and practices of Corporate Governance, international carriage of goods, comparative corporate governance and has researched on ‘’corporate governance in Islamic law’’. He worked as legal adviser for Dr.Al Sabhan legal group in Dubai (United Arab Emirates).as well as worked as Legal Advice and legal researcher for the municipality and planning department of Ajman (United Arab Emirates). He was selected to attend as a member of Ajman Emirate on the meetings of general secretariat of municipalities (United Arab Emirates). He has published on a number of legal issues such as ‘’the defendant’s right to have his attorney presented during the interrogation ‘’ which is published in May 2006. (No: 312, paper 54, ALBaldiat). H e is working as legal researcher for ministry of interior (United Arab Emirates).
Published June 2010
Table of Contents
In December 2nd 1971, United Arab Emirates was declared as a united, independent and sovereign state encompassing of seven emirates, i.e. Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Um Al Quwain and Al Fujairah.
United Arab Emirates is located in the south east region of the Arabian Peninsula, as it extends from the Oman Gulf eastward to Qatar westward, bordered by the Arabian Gulf from the north and the North West, Qatar and Saudi Arabia from the west and Oman Gulf as well as Sultanate of Oman from the east. United Arab Emirates shores towering over the southern coast of the Arabian Gulf extends to cover an area of 644 Kilometers from the base of Qatar Peninsula westward to Ras Masandam eastward, having the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman and Um Al Quwain diffused over the coast, whereas the coast of the seventh emirate Al Fujairah stretches for 90 Kilometers over the coast of Oman Gulf. Therefore the state occupies the located area between the latitudes 22 and 26.5 degrees northward, and the longitudes 51 and 56.5 degrees eastward Grenache.
United Arab Emirates area excluding the affiliated isles amounts to 83.600 Square Kilometers. The Emirate of Abu Dhabi represents the greatest share since it covers an area of 67.340 Square Kilometers equivalent to 87% of the total area of the State.
The federal authorities of the State consists of the Supreme Council of the Federation, the Chairman of the Federation and his Deputy, the Cabinet, the Federal National Council and the Federal Judiciary Body. The Union represents a part of the great homeland bonded by the ties of religion, language, history and mutual destiny, as its people constitute an integral part of the nation, embracing Islam as a religion and the Islamic teachings represent the main source for legislation, having the Arabic language as its official language.
The President of the Country: H.H. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan (may Allah Bless him)
The Population: 4.320 Million (Estimations of 2005).
The Capital: Abu Dhabi
The Seven Emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Um Al Quwain and Al Fujairah.
Area: 83.600 square kilometers
The Religion: Islam
The Language: Arabic Language is considered the official language in the country whereas the English Language is widely used as far as the commercial and economic domains are concerned.
The Local Timing: The timing of United Arab Emirates precedes the Grenache timing by four hours. (Grenache + 4).
The life of the ruling sheikh is quite important. In the UAE region, up through the end of the Second World War, pearling was a major trade, but after the war, and after the Japanese began creating cultured pearls, the pearling industry withered away. It was not too many years, however, before oil became the UAE's biggest and most important export.
Before the export of oil in the regions that became the UAE, economic adventures included fishing, agriculture, pearl production, and herding. After oil prices rose significantly in 1973, however, the export of oil has been the dominant money maker for such states, accounting for most of its export earnings. The UAE has very large oil reserves, estimated at nearly 100 billion barrels in 2003, and gas reserves estimated to fill 212 trillion cubic feet. At maintained drilling levels, these resources could last for over 150 years.
1820 - Britain and local rulers sign a treaty to combat piracy along the Gulf coast. From this, and later agreements, the area becomes known as the Trucial Coast.
1892 - Deal between the Trucial States and Britain gives Britain control over foreign affairs and each emirate control over internal affairs.
1950s - Oil is discovered.
1952 - The seven emirates form a Trucial Council.
1962 - Oil is exported for the first time from Abu Dhabi.
1966 August - Sheikh Zayed Bin-Sultan Al Nuhayyan takes over as Ruler of Abu Dhabi.
1968 - As independence looms, Bahrain and Qatar join the Trucial States. Differences cause the union to crumble in 1971.
1971 November - Iran occupies the islands of Greater and Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa.
1971 December - After independence from Britain, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujayrah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Qaywayn come together as the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Sheikh Zayed Bin-Sultan Al Nuhayyan presides over the federation.
1971 - UAE joins the Arab League.
1972 - Ras al-Khaymah joins the federation.
1972 February - Federal National Council (FNC) is created; it is a 40 member consultative body appointed by the seven rulers.
1981 May - UAE is a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council; its first summit is held in Abu Dhabi.
1987 June - Attempted coup in Sharjah. Sheikh Sultan Bin-Muhammad al-Qasimi abdicates in favour of his brother after admitting financial mismanagement but is reinstated by the Supreme Council of Rulers.
1990 October - Sheikh Rashid Bin-Said Al Maktum dies and is succeeded by his son Sheikh Maktum Bin-Rashid Al Maktum as ruler of Dubai and UAE vice-president.
1991 - UAE forces join the allies against Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait.
1991 July - Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) collapses. Abu Dhabi's ruling family owns a 77.4% share.
1992 Iran angers the UAE by saying visitors to Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb must have Iranian visas.
1993 December - Abu Dhabi sues BCCI's executives for damages.
1994 June - 11 of the 12 former BCCI executives accused of fraud are given jail sentences and ordered to pay compensation.
1996 - Iran fuels the dispute over Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb by building an airport on Abu Musa and a power station on Greater Tunb.
1998 - UAE restores diplomatic relations with Iraq; they were severed at the outbreak of the 1991 Gulf War.
1999 November - Gulf Cooperation Council backs the UAE in its dispute with Iran over Greater and Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa.
2004 November - UAE President Sheikh Zayed Bin-Sultan Al Nahyan dies and is succeeded by his son, Sheikh Khalifa.
2006 January - Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum, UAE PM and vice-president and ruler of Dubai, dies during a visit to Australia. He is succeeded by his brother, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.
2006 March - Political storm in the US forces state-owned Dubai Ports World to relinquish control of terminals at six major American ports. Critics of the ports deal feared an increased risk of terrorist attack, saying the UAE was home to two of the 9/11 hijackers.
2006 March-June - Economic changes announced. They include bringing the days of the official weekend into line with Western nations, introducing laws to reduce the dependence on foreign workers and allowing laborers to form trade unions.
2006 16 December - First-ever national elections. A small number of hand-picked voters choose half of the members of the Federal National Council - an advisory body.
2007 April - UAE unveils a national development strategy aimed at making it a world leader.
2007 September - Dubai and Qatar become the two biggest shareholders of the London Stock Exchange, the world's third largest stock exchange.
2008 January - France and the UAE sign a deal allowing France to set up a permanent military base in the UAE's largest emirate, Abu Dhabi.
2008 July - The UAE cancels the entire debt owed to it by Iraq - a sum of almost $7bn.
Boom grinds to halt
2009 February - Dubai sold $10bn in bonds to the UAE in order to ease liquidity problems.
2009 December - Abu Dhabi gives Dubai a $10bn handout to help it pay off its debts. It will use $4.1bn of the money to bail out its Dubai World investment arm.
2010 January - Burj Khalifa tower opens in Dubai as the world's tallest building and man-made structure.
Although the core principles of law in the UAE are drawn from Sharia, most legislation is comprised of a mix of Islamic and European concepts of civil law, which have a common root in the Egyptian legal code established in the late 19th to 20th centuries. The French influence is most clearly demonstrated by the adoption of the civil law by most countries in the region similar to those in European states, rather than the common law system in the UK.
In addition to specific legal legislation covering agencies, company law, labor law, and intellectual property, the UAE has enacted civil and commercial codes. Although the system has lead to the development of comprehensive and structured legal systems, these are rigid and inflexible to some degree, and this constitutes the bureaucracy of regulation that is associated with countries in the Middle East region as a whole.
The structure of the legal system is complex with both dual courts, Sharia courts and civil courts operating in parallel, but covering different areas of the law. For example in the UAE, each Emirate has its own federal court of first instance, although Dubai and Ras al Khaimah have their own separate judicial frameworks.
UAE’s Legal System as of the other Legal systems in the Gulf is usually quite complicated and those unfamiliar with their workings can find this very difficult. The fact is that these systems are completely different to those in the west with a whole different language, which makes it worrying for those who want to transact in business in the UAE and the Gulf states.
Although these systems are different, the basic
legal principles and structure are logical and understandable. They have
evolved over many centuries, in a similar way to the West and, especially in
the UAE, are adapting to the changing needs of society with new developments in
thinking for a modern age. More changes in commercial law have liberalized
legal regimes, creating a more open and understandable environment for foreign
businesses and investors.
The basis of the legal system in the UAE is Sharia or Quranic Law. In the constitutions, Islam is identified as the state religion as well as the principal source of law. However, although the principles of Sharia influence criminal and civil laws, the direct influence of Sharia in the UAE is primarily confined to social laws, such as family law, divorce or succession. Most commercial matters are now dealt with by either civil courts or permanently established arbitration tribunals.
There are several core principles of Sharia which apply to business transactions and which have influenced the development of commercial codes that apply in the UAE. Although these concepts don't directly translate into commercial codes (although they may do in Islamic finance), they have exerted an influence over the drafting and interpretation of these laws. These are:
1. Usury or charging of interest (riba) is forbidden) According to Sharia, money is not a commodity, that can be traded, nor does it have a value over time if left unused. Therefore interest earned is an unjust income.
2. Risk should be shared As income can not be derived from interest payments, investors should share in profits or losses of an investment in proportion to the amount that the put into the transaction, and thus the level of risk they undertook.
3. Uncertainty (gharar) in a contract is prohibited: Both parties must undertake a contract with full knowledge of all the terms. This means that the amount of capital or goods should be agreed in advance and stipulated in the contract.
4. Competence As is the case in most legal jurisdictions, the law also specifies that the parties in a contract must possess the legal capacity to understand and assume the obligations of the contract.
5. Consent The parties to a contract should enter into it of their own free will and should not be subject to coercion or duress.
Since its establishment on the 2nd of December, 1971, the UAE has set a temporary constitution, which rapidly has turned into a permanent one. This happened after the federal state of the UAE has established its stability achieved success, committed to a moderate policy, and made cultural changes and giant accomplishments on the local, regional and international levels and further progress for the people of this federation. By so doing, this would be one of the most successful experiences of unification in the modern history.
This constitution explains the main rules of the political and constitutional organization of the state. In fact, it has demonstrated the main purpose of establishment of the federation, its objectives and components on the local and regional levels. It has also elaborated on the major social and economic pillars of federation and stressed public rights, responsibilities and freedoms. Moreover, it has highlighted federal authorities, organized issuance of federal legislation and the competent authorities as well. Above all, it has also dealt with financial affairs of the federation, armed and security forces provisions and legislative, executive and international jurisdictions between the federation and member emirates.
According to Article 144 of the constitution, amendments to the constitution are drafted by the Federal Supreme Council, and must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Federal National Council, after which the amendment is signed into law by the president.
The constitution describes five federal institutions. These are the Federal Supreme Council (FSC-executive), the President of the Union and the vice president, the Council of Ministers of the Union, the Federal National Council (FNC-legislative), and the Judiciary of the Union.
The Federal Supreme Council elected Abu Dhabi’s President Shaikh Zayed unanimously for the sixth time on December 2, 2001 as the President of the Union.
The Council of Ministers drafts decrees and various decisions. The prime minister and the members of the cabinet are responsible to the president and to the Federal Supreme Council (FSC), which is the highest executive body in the federation, made up of the rulers of the seven emirates.
-The Federal Supreme Council is the highest constitutional authority in the UAE. It is also the highest legislative and executive body. It establishes general policies and sanctions federal legislation. The rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai have veto power. The FSC meets four times a year, usually informally.
-The 1996 constitution governs the relationship between the federal government and the emirate governments by giving the central government specific powers and leaving an unspecified area of implicit powers to the emirates. Each emirate retains control over its own oil and mineral wealth and some aspects of internal security. The federal government asserts primacy in most matters of law and government.
-Articles 120 and 121 of the constitution assign responsibility to the federal government in areas such as foreign affairs, security and defense, nationality and immigration issues, education, public health, currency, postal, telephone and other communications services, air traffic control and licensing of aircraft and a number of other topics specifically prescribed, including labor relations, banking, delimitation of territorial waters and extradition of criminals. Article 121 was amended in 2004 to allow for the devolution of legislative authority vested in the Union onto local federal organizations, specifically the newly formed Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC). The amendment sets a precedent for the expansion of the federal authority.
-With respect to the Emirates, article 116 stipulates that “the Emirates shall exercise all powers not assigned to the Federation by this Constitution.” Article 122 further emphasizes that “the Emirates shall have jurisdiction in all matters not assigned to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federation, in accordance with the provision of the preceding two Articles.” The constitution also enables the rulers of the emirates, however, to relinquish, if they wish, certain areas of authority prescribed as being the responsibility of individual emirates to the federal government. The decision to unify the Armed Forces in the mid-1970s is an example of this prerogative.
-The 1971 constitution permitted each emirate to retain or to take up membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), although none has done so. The only emirate to be a member in 1971, Abu Dhabi, relinquished its memberships in favor of the federation.
-The relationship between the federal and the local levels of government continues to change and evolve. Smaller emirates have benefited from the federation in areas like education and tourism. At the same time, in other areas, such as the judiciary, there has been an evolving trend towards a further voluntary relinquishment of local authority to the federal institutions.
Traditional and modern forms of government coexist and supplement each other. Although political leaders in the emirates are not elected, citizens may express their concerns directly to their leaders via traditional mechanisms, such as the open majlis, or informal assembly.
The constitution prohibits torture or degrading treatment and prohibits arrest, search, detention, or imprisonment, and entry into homes without the owner's permission, except in accordance with the law. It provides for the independence of the judiciary, but its decisions are subject to review by the political leadership. The constitution also in Article 25 states that all persons are equal before the law and there shall be no discrimination between citizens of the Union in regard to race, nationality, religious belief or social status. And Article 28 points out that Penalty is personal, an accused person is presumed innocent until his conviction is proved before a court of law wherein the necessary guarantees of the right of self-defense are secured, The law shall prescribe the cases in which the presence of a counsel for defense shall be assigned and physical and moral abuse of an accused person is prohibited. Article 27 adds that Crimes and punishments shall be defined by the law & No penalty shall be imposed for any act of commission or omission committed before the relevant law has been promulgated.
Part 5 of UAE constitution explains the process of legislation in the UAE which is:
The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven Emirates. The legislative branch is the unicameral Al-Majlis Al-Watani Al-Ittihadi, or Federal National Council (FNC). Twenty of the FNC's 40 members are elected by 7000 notables who are chosen by the local governments to represent various social groups and tribes. The other twenty are appointed by the rulers of the Emirates to serve a two-year-term of office with the possibility of renewal. The selection process of the FNC members is left by the constitution to the Emirates' discretion. Of the 40 members the share of Abu Dhabi and Dubai is 8 members each. Sharjah and Ra’s al Khaymah have 6 members each, and Ajman, Umm al Oaywayn, and Al Fujayrah each have four members on the Federal National Council.
The FNC reviews legislation and proposes amendments to it, but it does not have the power to veto laws or to initiate new laws. As such, the parliament is largely a consultative body. The Council, however, does have the power to examine and amend proposed legislation and the power to summon and question any federal minister as well as its own members. One of the main duties of the FNC is to discuss the annual budget.
Sessions, Dissolution, State of Exception
The beginning and termination of legislative sessions are determined by presidential decree.
Federal laws are drafted by the Council of Ministers and are then submitted to the FNC, where they are first sent to the proper committee. If a committee makes amendments to the proposed draft by the executive, the amended draft goes to the Legal and Legislative Committee, before the floor debate, for consultation and formulation of its provisions. Finally, the draft is presented to the president of the federation.
Article 111 clearly states that Laws shall be published in the Official Gazette of the Union within a maximum of two weeks from the date of their signature and promulgation by the President of the Union after the Supreme Council has ratified them.
Article 112 clearly states that no laws may be applied except on what occurs as from the date they become in force and no retroactive effect shall result in such laws however if necessity so requires , the law may stipulate the contrary in matters other than criminal .
Different legislations are issued in UAE Laws in many different areas, for example:
Criminal Procedures law (Arabic)
Civil Procedures (Arabic)
Personal status law (Arabic)
Anti-Money Laundering Law No. 4 [Arabic]
Federal Law No. 20 of 1981 Amending certain Provisions of Federal Law No. 6/1974 Concerning Public Welfare Associations [Arabic]
Bylaws of the Federal National Council, 1977 [Arabic]].
Adopted January 1, 1977.
Federal Law No. 6 of 1974 Concerning Public Welfare Associations [old version] [Arabic].
Nationality and Passports Law (17 / 1972) [Arabic].
Constitution, 1971 [Arabic]. Adopted July 18, 1971.
Legislative Texts [Arabic]
The constitution, bylaws, elections laws, and other texts from the Arab Parliamentary Database - The United Nations Development Programme - Programme on Governance in the Arab Region UNDP-POGAR.
Text of the Federal Law No 7 for 1976 on the establishment of the State Audit Institution in the U.A.E.
Article 47 points out that The Supreme Council of the Union shall exercise Ratification of treaties and international agreements & such ratification shall be accomplished by decree. When article 60 adds that The Council of Ministers shall be responsible for supervising the execution of international agreements concluded by the Union. And further article 91 states that the Government shall inform the Union Assembly of international treaties and agreements concluded with other states and the various international organizations, together with appropriate explanations.
The Authorities of the Union
Article 45 shows that the Union authorities shall consist of:-
1. The Supreme Council of the Union
2. The President of the Union and his Deputy
3. The Council of Ministers of the Union
4. The National Assembly of the Union
5. The Judiciary of the Union
The Federal Supreme Council consists of rulers of the seven emirates constituting the federation or their deputies in their emirates in case of rulers' absence or unavailability. Each Emirate has one single vote in the council resolutions and deliberations.
The Federal Supreme Council performs the responsibilities outlined below:
1- Formulating the general policy on all matters invested in the federation under the constitution, and considering all matters that could lead to the achievement of the objectives of the federation and the common interests of the member emirates.
2- Endorsing the various federal laws prior to their issuance including laws of the annual general budget of the federation and the closing accounts .
3- Sanctioning the decrees on matters that by virtue of the provisions of the constitution are subject to the ratification and approval of the Federal Supreme Council. Such sanctioning takes place prior to issuance of such decrees by the president of the council .
4- Ratification of treaties and international agreements. Such ratification is done by accomplished by decree.
5- Approving the appointment of the prime minister of the federation, accepting his resignation, and requesting him to resign upon the suggestion of the President of the Federation .
6- Approving the appointment of the president and the judges of the Supreme Federal Court, accepting their resignations, and dismissing them in the cases specified by the constitution. Such actions are done by decrees.
7- Supreme control over the affairs of the federation in general.
8- Any other relevant responsibilities stipulated in the constitution or in the federal laws .
• Federal Supreme Council lays down its own regulations including its procedure for conduct of business and the method for voting on its resolutions. The deliberations of the Council shall remain secret.
• Federal Supreme Council establishes a general secretariat consisting of a sufficient number of officials to help it in performing its duties and functions .
• Resolutions of the Federal Supreme Council on substantive matters are made by a majority of five of its members provided that such majority includes the vote of the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai . Minority shall abide by the opinion of the aforesaid majority. However, resolutions of the council on procedural matters shall be issued by a majority vote. Such matters are defined in the by-laws of the council.
• Federal Supreme Council holds its sessions in the capital of the federation; however, they can be held in any other place agreed on beforehand.
The President of the Union & his deputy
Article 51 states that the Supreme Council of the Union shall elect from among its members a President and a Vice President of the Union &The Vice President of the Union shall exercise all the powers of the President in the event of his absence for any reason.
The President of the Union shall assume the following powers:
1. Presiding the Supreme Council and directing its discussions.
2. Presiding the Supreme Council into session, and terminating its sessions according to the rules of procedure upon which the Council shall decide its bye-laws. It is obligatory for him to convene the Council for sessions, whenever one of its members so requested.
3. Calling the Supreme Council and the Council of Ministers into joint session whenever necessity demands.
4. Signing Union laws, decrees and decisions which the Supreme Council has sanctioned and promulgating them.
5. Appointing the Prime Minister, accepting his resignation and relieving him of office with the consent of the Supreme Council. He shall also appoint the Deputy Prime Minister and the Ministers and shall receive their resignations and relieve them of office in accordance with a proposal from the Prime Minister of the Union.
6. Appointing the diplomatic representatives of the Union to foreign states and other senior Union officials both civil and military (with the exception of the President and Judges of the Supreme Court of the Union) and accepting their resignations and dismissing them with the consent of the Council of Ministers of the Union. Such appointments, acceptance of resignations and dismissals shall be accomplished by decrees and in accordance with Union laws.
7. Signing of letters of credence of diplomatic representatives of the Union to foreign states and organizations and accepting the credentials of diplomatic and consular representatives of foreign states to the Union and receiving their letters of credence. He shall similarly sign documents of appointment and credence of representatives.
8. Supervising the implementation of Union laws, decrees and decisions through the Council of Ministers of the Union and the competent Ministers.
9. Representing the Union internally, vis-a-vis other states and in all international relations.
10. Exercising the right of pardon and commutation of sentences and approving capital sentences according to the provisions of this Constitution and Union laws.
11. Conferring decorations and medals of honor, both civil and military, in accordance with the laws relating to such decorations and medals.
12. Any other power vested in him by the Supreme Council or vested in him in conformity with this Constitution or Union laws.
Article 55 shows that The Council of Ministers of the Union shall consist of the Prime Minister, his Deputy and a number of Ministers & article 57 states that the Prime Minister, his Deputy and the Ministers shall, before assuming the responsibilities of their office take the following oath before the President of the Union:-
"I swear by Almighty God that I will be loyal to the United Arab Emirates; that I will respect its Constitution and laws; that I will discharge my duties faithfully; that I will completely observe the interests of the people of the Union and that I will completely safeguard the existence of the Union and its territorial integrity."
Responsibilities of the Council of Ministers of the Union
1. Following up the implementation of the general policy of the Union Government both domestic and foreign.
2. Initiating drafts of Federal Laws and submitting them to the Union National Council before they are raised to the President of the Union for presentation to the Supreme Council for sanction.
3. Drawing up the annual general budget of the Union, and the final accounts.
4. Preparing drafts of decrees and various decisions.
5. Issuing regulations necessary for the implementation of Union laws without amending or suspending such regulations or making any exemption from their execution. Issuing also police regulations and other regulations relating to the organization of public services and administrations within the limits of this Constitution and Union laws. A special provision of the law or the Council of Ministers may charge the competent Union Minister or any other administrative authority to promulgate some of such regulations.
6. Supervising the implementation of Union laws, decrees, decisions and regulations by all the concerned authorities in the Union or in the Emirates.
7. Supervising the execution of judgments rendered by Union Law Courts and the implementation of international treaties and agreements concluded by the Union.
8. Appointment and dismissal of Union employees in accordance with the provisions of the law, provided that their appointment and dismissal do not require the issue of a decree.
9. Controlling the conduct of work in departments and public services of the Union and the conduct and discipline of Union employees in general.
10. Any other authority vested in it by law or by the Supreme Council within the limits of this Constitution.
The Ministries (more accessing this link)
Abu Dhabi 8 seats
Dubai 8 seats
Sharjah 6 seats
Ras AI Khaimah 6 seats
Ajman 4 seats
Umm AI Quwain 4 seats
Fujairah 4 seats
Article 70 shows the conditions that the member of the Union National Assembly must satisfy as following:
1. Must be a citizen of one of the Emirates of the Union, and permanently resident in the Emirate he represents in the Assembly.
2. Must be not less than twenty-five Gregorian years of age at the time of his selection.
3. Must enjoy civil status. Good conduct, reputation and not previously convicted of a dishonorable offence unless he has been rehabilitated in accordance with the law.
4. Must have adequate knowledge of reading and writing.
Article 77 clearly states that the member of the National Assembly of the Union shall represent the whole people of the Union and not merely the Emirate which he represents in the Assembly.
The UAE Court System
The United Arab Emirates is essentially a civil law jurisdiction
heavily influenced by French, Roman, Egyptian and Islamic law. Common law
principles, such as adopting previous court judgments as legal precedents, are
generally not recognized (although judgments delivered by higher courts are
usually applied by lower courts). Only local firms may appear as counsel before
a court. As the UAE has established itself as a regional hub for international
business, arbitration is gradually becoming a popular method of dispute
Although there is a federal court structure with a final court of appeal in Abu Dhabi (the Abu Dhabi Supreme Court), both Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah are not part of the federal judicial system. Unlike the other emirates Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah have their own court systems, which are not subject to the federal Supreme Court. There are three main branches within the court structure: civil, criminal and Sharia, or Islamic, law. The court structure in Dubai is comprised of the following courts: the Court of First Instance, the Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation. The Court of First Instance includes the Civil Court, the Criminal Court and the Sharia Court.
A UAE court will accept an attorney appointed by a litigant according to the provisions of the law, and the attorney must prove his appointment as representative of his client by an official deed (i.e. power of attorney) notarized by a notary public.
The Civil Court (or Court of First Instance) hears all claims ranging from commercial matters (including debt recovery cases) to maritime disputes. After judgment has been delivered, the parties have the right to appeal to the Civil Court of Appeal on factual and/or legal grounds within 30 days of the date of judgment. It is possible to introduce additional evidence to the Court of Appeal and/or request that additional witnesses be called to testify. Thereafter, parties may appeal on points of law alone to the Court of Cassation (the highest court in Dubai), which is usually composed of five judges. The appeal must be filed within 30 days of the date the parties were notified of the judgment of the Court of Appeal. All decisions of the Court of Cassation are final and are not subject to appeal.
Criminal actions in the UAE commence with the filing of a complaint with the local police in the jurisdiction where the offense was committed. During the investigation, police may take the statements of any parties involved. Following this initial investigation, local police usually refer the matter to the prosecutor's office within 48 hours of the filing of the complaint. The police may refer the matter to the prosecutor for advice prior to officially forwarding the case with a recommendation to press charges.
The prosecutor’s office will then investigate the matter, take the statements of any parties involved, and hear their witnesses or any other person the prosecutor decides has information germane to the matter. The prosecutor’s office will then decide either to refer the matter to the court or to decline to press charges in the absence of sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed. The prosecutor must decide either to press charges or drop the case within 14 days of receiving the case from the police. If the prosecutor needs more time to reach a decision, he may file a request for extension with the court, which is approved or denied at the court’s discretion. Although it happens extremely rarely and only in extenuating circumstances, cases have been known to sit with the prosecutor as long as a year.
Sharia or Islamic courts work alongside the civil and criminal courts in the UAE. The Sharia court is the Islamic court in the UAE and is primarily responsible for civil matters between Muslims. Non-Muslims will not appear before a Sharia court in any matter. Sharia courts have the exclusive jurisdiction to hear family disputes, including matters involving divorce, inheritances, child custody, child abuse and guardianship of minors. In the absence of any particular provision in the UAE codified law, the Islamic principles of Sharia as found in the Islamic Sharia textbooks are applied.
The Sharia court may, at the federal level only (which, as mentioned earlier, excludes Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah), also hear appeals of certain criminal cases including rape, robbery, driving under the influence of alcohol and related crimes, which were originally tried in lower criminal courts.
The Court of Cassation is the highest court in the UAE, and it will only hear disputes on matters of law. The Court of Cassation will not only act as an appellate court with respect to the decisions of lower courts, but will also supervise these lower courts to ensure that they are applying and interpreting the law correctly. Lower courts must abide by the legal principles set down by the Court of Cassation.
The Emirate of Dubai has its own Court of Cassation. In all Emirates other than Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, the final appeal will be to the federal Supreme Court located in Abu Dhabi.
Drafted 22 March 2005. Based upon an article entitled “The Courts System in the UAE,” by Mohamed Ali Abou Sakr, Liberty magazine, Issue 03, March 2005. Edited for content and to include post research into the topic.
The Court of Cassation is also entrusted with judicial review for all legislation, both for laws that originate at the federal level and for those enacted by the individual emirates.
Each of the seven emirates has its own government, which functions in tandem with the federal government. The largest and most populous emirate, Abu Dhabi, has its own central governing body, the Executive Council, chaired by the crown prince; the Eastern and Western Regions and the island of Das are headed by a ruler’s representative. Municipalities administer the main cities, each of which has a municipal council. The National Consultative Council functions like the Federal National Council. Local departments carry out various administrative functions. A similar system of municipalities and departments exists in the other emirates.
Article one of the constitution provides that the Union consists of the following Emirates Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman ,Umm Al Quwain ,Fujairah & it is allowed for any independent Arab country to join the Union, once approved by the Supreme Council of the Federation at a unanimous consensus (Ras Al Khaimah joined the Federation of the United Arab Emirates in February 10, 1972,).
Article 116 shows that the Emirates shall exercise all powers not assigned to the Union by this Constitution. The Emirates shall all participate in the establishment of the Union and shall benefit from its existence, services and protection while article 117 describes the targets of the rule in each emirate which are maintaining security and order within its territories and the provision of public utilities for its inhabitants and the raising of social and economic standards. And further article 118 states that The member Emirates of the Union shall all work for the co-ordination of their legislations in various fields with the intention of unifying such legislations as far as possible & adds that it is allowed, after obtaining the approval of the Supreme Council, for one emirate or more to agglomerate in a political or administrative unit, or unify all or part of their public services or establish a single or joint administration to run any such service. In connection with the matters regarding to the execution of judgments and requests for commissions of rogation and serving legal documents and surrender of fugitives between member Emirates of the Union, Article 119 provides that it shall be regulated with utmost ease by Union law.
The Federal National Council of the UAE discusses the annual budget and yearly final accounts. Under the country’s constitution, half of each emirate’s revenues are reserved for the federal budget, but in practice Abu Dhabi and Dubai generate 85 per cent of the UAE’s gross domestic product and are the only ones to contribute to federal finances. Of the two, Abu Dhabi’s contributions are the larger by some margin. The deficit is typically funded by additional contributions from the two emirates, together with some support from the UAE Central Bank. Negotiations are under way with other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council to prepare a common data standard and fiscal accounting framework. Greater rationalization is needed to prepare for the monetary union expected in 2010. The authorities are also discussing a value-added tax as a means of broadening the tax base, if it can be coordinated with the other GCC members. The UAE, with an outward oriented development strategy, has already diminished its dependence on petroleum revenues. Other revenues, amounting to barely five per cent of government revenues in 1980, grew to be one-third of the total in 2004.
Governed by Federal Law 7 of 1976, the State Audit Institution (SAI) conducts audits of ministries, federal government departments, public corporations, and all entities in which public ownership is at 25 percent or more of total shares. In cases of financial misconduct the president of the SAI may decide to prosecute the case before a special disciplinary council or to refer it to the concerned authority. The SAI is expected to write a general annual report of all its activities.
Auditors in the UAE are under the mandate of Law No. 9 of 1975, which established a register for auditors and established standards for the profession in the country. Law No. 22 of 1995 and supplementary regulations in Decree No. 49 of 1997 have now superseded the original legislation. All auditors in the country must register with the Ministry of Economy and Commerce. UAE business law expressly prohibits obstructing auditors’ access to company books and withholding required information; violating of laws pertaining to employment of U.A.E. nationals; and disregarding transparency laws for auditors.
The Public Tenders Law 16 of 1975 regulates all public sector tenders except those concerning federal defense or the individual emirates. The requirement that only UAE entities or nationals may bid may be waived when bids are directly solicited from manufacturers or, on a case-by-case basis, when the goods or services are not widely available.
The Central Bank, established by Union Law No. 10 of 1980, supervises a commercial banking system of 46 banks with over 300 branches. Like other central banks it issues the national currency and directs monetary, credit and banking policy. It also sponsored a seminar in 2004 about informal financial transfers in efforts to regulate and license this segment of the financial system. In late 2005 it joined the International Finance Corporation in promoting international practices of corporate governance in the formal banking sector.
The Central Bank tightened its supervision and monitoring program over the banks following a series of banking scandals and difficulties with non-performing loans in the 1980s and early 1990s. It also set a new risk-weighted minimum capital-asset ratio of 10%—2% above the Basel recommended minimum. Since October 2001, banks are required to inform the Central Bank of all transactions exceeding US$ 10,900. Non-performing loans constituted 12.5 per cent of loans outstanding at the end of 2004, but they were adequately provisioned, keeping the net total (after provisions) to less than 4 per cent.
A new anti money-laundering law in May 2002 gave the Central Bank the power to freeze any suspected accounts for seven days without prior legal permission. The banks were required to provide all details of their clients and internal and external transactions on request and to report on any suspected deal. The Central Bank has already frozen or blacklisted nearly 30 bank accounts on these grounds and uncovered several money-laundering operations inside the UAE. Laws were passed in 2004 against financing terrorism and for addressing money laundering issues in the UAE’s financial free zones.
The federal government has encouraged diversification and privatization of the economy. Dubai has taken the lead in encouraging foreign investment, in efforts to become a leading hub of international commerce, while Abu Dhabi, which accounts for about 95 percent of the oil production, is spearheading the privatization of utilities and seeking foreign investment in some sectors of the economy, particularly the power industry, to bring in modern technology and management techniques and reduce costs.
The most ambitious privatization plans concern water desalination and producing and distributing electricity. 11 companies are to be created in Abu Dhabi to manage the different aspects of producing, operating, scheduling, dispatching and distributing of water and electricity. Other issues include the elimination of government subsidies of water and electricity as well as a plan to trim the 14,000 strong staff in the industry in order to lower costs and increase profitability.
The Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority (ESCA), established in 2000, is the regulatory and licensing body responsible for the market integrity and transparency of the Abu Dhabi Securities Market and Dubai Financial Market, which commenced operations in June of that year. The Dubai International Financial Center in turned opened global operations in September 2004, and efforts are continuing, with advice from the IMF, to develop a comprehensive regulatory framework for these emerging capital markets. There are plans to establish a Securities Exchange Markets Board to monitor the market. Listed companies are obliged in the interests of transparency to issue quarterly financial statements.
In 2006 thirty-eight companies were listed for trade on the ADSM and thirty-four on the DFM. Market capitalization in the ADSM and the DFM reached 60% of GDP at the end of 2004 and was second regionally only to Saudi Arabia, although the turnover ratio remained below 4 per cent of the value of traded stocks. The Central Bank is keen to promote the development of a bond market, as a means to improve liquidity, and allow companies to raise medium-and long-term finance.
The Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) is intended to become a regional financial center on par with New York, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong. The DIFC possesses its own legal structure and financial regulations, drawn up on the basis of international best practices. The DIFC operates in dollars, and contains its own regulatory body, the Dubai Financial Services Authority, and its own exchange market, the Dubai Regional Exchange (DRX). The regulatory structure for the center was published in December 2003.
The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research is the premier think tank in the UAE. The ECSSR is an independent research institution that serves as a focal point for scholarship on political, economic, and social issues pertinent to the UAE, the Gulf, and the greater Middle East through the sponsorship of empirical research and scientific studies conducted by scholars from around the globe. The ECSSR’s Department of Economic and Social Studies conducts research on economics and society with the objective of providing recommendations that facilitate future policies for the UAE. It also analyzes economic transformations on the local, regional, and international levels that may impact the security and stability of the UAE.
The Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS) offers nearly 200 training programs each year for the burgeoning banking sector. It also publishes a monthly magazine and operates a Research and Studies Department, founded in 2002.
The United Arab Emirates permits publication online of the IMF's annual Staff Report on Article IV Consultations and joined the IMF’s General Data Dissemination System on July 31, 2008. The Emirates have also engaged with the IMF and World Bank in publishing Reports on the Observance of Standards and Codes (ROSC) for banking supervision and payment and settlement.
The UAE offers a fully-fledged educational system for both boys and girls from primary level to university, with education for the country's citizens being provided free through government schools, colleges and universities. There is also an extensive private education sector which now accounts for around 40 per cent of the student population.
Over half a million students are now at school or in college, while several thousand students, of both sexes, are pursuing courses of higher education abroad at Government expense.
Education from primary to secondary level is universal and compulsory and literacy rates are comparable to the norm in developed countries. An adult illiteracy programmed conducted in association with the UAE Women's Federation is helping to eradicate illiteracy among the older members of society. There is a strong focus on computer literacy and on English language teaching in higher education to equip young Emirates with the necessary skills.
State-funded educational opportunities in the UAE have blossomed since the establishment of the Federation when only a tiny minority of the population had access to formal education. A comprehensive free education system is now available to all students, male and female. At the start of the 1999/2000 academic year, 336,135 students enrolled in over 640 government schools throughout the country. Substantial progress has also taken place in the private sector which accounts for nearly 40 per cent of the student population at kindergarten, primary and secondary level.
In addition the UAE’s youth have ready access to higher education, both federally-funded and at the many internationally accredited private institutions that are being established throughout the UAE. Generous grants are also available for those wishing to study abroad.
Although the UAE has achieved much in the field of education there is a real awareness that constant updating of policy and continual investment in infrastructure is required to ensure that graduates are properly equipped to enter the workforce and assist in the country’s development. To this end, the Ministry of Education has released a draft policy document outlining a strategy for educational development in the UAE up to the year 2020 based on several five - year plans. The strategy aims to introduce the latest information technology at all levels including a computer for every 10 students at kindergarten, every five students at primary school, every two students at preparatory school, and a computer for every student at secondary school. The primary focus of attention will be on the needs of students, especially through the promotion of self-learning and continuous education programs. T here will also be training programs for teachers since surveys have shown that although the majority of students can use computers and the Internet, their teachers we re less familiar with this technology.
Cooperation between the public and private sectors at this stage in the country’s progress is considered to be essential and so the draft policy document features the establishment of a council for educational development, comprising senior education specialists, government officials and businessmen to assist in raising finance for infrastructure and information technology projects. It also envisages the setting up of a special fund comprising governmental and private bodies.
The emiratisation of teaching staff is scheduled to reach 90 per cent by the year 2020,a necessary development if the UAE’s Islamic traditions and principles are to be safeguarded.
Women in the UAE have enthusiastically embraced the educational opportunities provided by them in recent years. (For more information see the section on Women.) This was evident yet again in the General Secondary School Certificate results in 1999 where female students outshone their male counterparts for the third consecutive year. The results showed a good overall performance by girls in both the science and literature subject groups. Fifteen girls were in the top 10 places in the literature group, while 16 girls and 10 boys shared the top 10 positions in the science group. The pass percentage of government schools was 96.2 per cent in science and 82.6 per cent in literature while private schools' pass percentage was 84 per cent in science and 77.9 per cent in literature.
More than 80 per cent of national students who graduated from secondary school in 1999 took up a place in higher education in September 1999. According to the National Admissions and Placement Office (NAPO), 90 per cent of female students and 73 per cent of their male counterparts commenced courses at the federally funded Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), established in 1987, Zayed University for women, established in 1998, and UAE University at Al Ain, established in 1977.
A total of 16,000 students, including 4,000 new recruits, commenced the new academic year 1999/2000 at Al Ain University, whilst 1,692 students enrolled at Zayed University, where the entire educational process is computer-based, 742 at the Abu Dhabi campus and 950 at the Dubai campus
In 1999, 4,944 students were granted admission to the 11 constituent colleges of the HCT network, compared with 4,154 at the beginning of the 1998–1999 academic year. Of these admissions, 1,675 were male and 3,229 were female, the latter figure being nearly double that for 1998.
The courses provided by the HCT are designed to prepare nationals for professional and technological careers in both government and private sectors. Since their foundation, the colleges have grown dramatically, with staff and students increasing by about 30 per cent each year. At present over 10,000 students are taking advantage of the educational opportunities offered by HCTs in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Al Ain and Ras al-Khaimah. HCT courses are grouped under four main programme headings: engineering, technology, health science, communication technology and business
During the period under review, Sheikh Zayed issued Federal Law No. 17 of 1998 dealing with the re-organization of the HCTs. The law stated that these institutions should henceforth be administered under an independent central body which will have its headquarters in Abu Dhabi but with branches in other towns.
Universities, Institutions and Research & Community Service Centers:
Abu Dhabi University - Contains colleges of arts and science, engineering and computer science, business administration, and an English language institute that offers language foundation programs.
Academic Integration Network - Website for the students of the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain featuring students activities and events, campus maps, related links, and news.
Ajman University of Science and Technology - Network of universities in the Emirates with campuses in Ajman, Al Ain and Fujairah. Includes profile, registration, faculties, alumni and contact details.
George Mason University in Ras Al Khaimah - Branch of the US-based university, offering undergraduate degree programs in engineering and information technology, business administration, and biology.
Ittihad University - Unaccredited University in Ras Al Khaimah offering BA programs in engineering, computer studies, business information systems, teaching and translating English.
Preston University Ajman - Licensed branch of the Preston University in USA, offering courses in business administration, information technology, fashion design, and Islamic studies.
Ras Al Khaimah Medical and Health Sciences University - Established by the Ras Al Khaimah Human Development Foundation, offering BA degrees in medicine and surgery, dental surgery, pharmacology, and nursing.
United Arab Emirates University - Based in Al Ain, containing colleges of humanities and social sciences, education, business and economics, shari'ah and law, information technology, and engineering.
World Al Lootah University - Emirates-based online distance learning university offering BA, MA and PhD programs in Islamic banking, economics and commerce, accounting, management, and computer science.
Zayed University - Open to national women of the Emirates, offering BA and MA programs in business sciences, information technology and education, with campuses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
College of Business and Economics - United Arab Emirates University - Offers MBA, and BA degrees in accounting, economics, banking and finance, marketing, business administration, management information systems, and statistics.
College of Engineering - United Arab Emirates University - Offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs in chemical, civil, mechanical, architectural, and petroleum engineering, as well as other engineering related courses.
Department of Islamic Studies - Preston University Ajman - Details the Islamic Studies and Arabic degrees, diplomas and courses offered in English by the Emirates based university department.
Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research-Independent research institution dedicated to the promotion of professional research and educational excellence in the UAE and the Gulf Area; site also has a general introduction to the UAE.
International Center for Biosaline Agriculture - Applied research and development centre located in Dubai; mission is to develop and promote the use of sustainable agricultural systems that use saline water to grow crops.
CSEM-UAE Innovation Center - Centre that works on technologies in environmental applications (energy and water), system engineering & mechatronics; joint venture between the Government of Ras Al Khaimah & the Swiss Research Center CSEM; based in Ras Al Khaimah.
Dubai Harvard Foundation for Medical Research - Foundation created to help drive resurgence in scientific inquiry and discovery in the Middle East; its initiatives include the Harvard Medical School Dubai Center Institute for Postgraduate Education and Research.
Gulf Research Center (GRC) - Research institute in Dubai, founded by Abdulaziz Sager to promote studies on Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and Gulf issues; conducts workshops, publishes data on GCC, offers consultancy, and training to students & employees.
Center of Excellence for Applied Research and Training - Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training, Higher Colleges of Technology, Abu Dhabi, and UAE. Online courses available.
Gulf Research Center (GRC) UAE - Independent research institute aims to enrich and foster academic and intellectual understanding of the political, economic, security, social and educational issues relevant to the Gulf region.
Emirates Institute of Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS) - Offers banking and financial services, studies and news in Dubai, UAE.
Academia UAE - Academic institute offering education, vocational, training and transfer of technology in UAE. Partners, activities, contact details and more.
Lotus Educational Institute, UAE - Educational institute located at Dubai Knowledge Village, UAE.
Two Four 54 - Tadreeb - Media and content training academy providing high level courses across a range of technical and managerial disciplines in UAE and MENA region.
Zabeel Institute of Management and Technology, Dubai, UAE - Educational institute in Dubai, UAE. Provides management and technology courses for executives.
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Civil Service Council
Abu-Dhabi International Private School (AIS)
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Al-Mizhar American Academy for Girls
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American School of Dubai
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Emirates International School
German International School
Greenfield Community School
Gulf Arabic Program
Ibn Seena English High School
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Louis Massignon School
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Abu Dhabi Police College
Dubai Aviation College
Dubai Police College
Gulf Medical College Ajman
HCT , Higher Colleges Of Technology
HCT, Sharjah Women's College
Hct ,Dubai Men's College
Hct, Al Ain Men's College
Hct, Abu Dhabi Men's College
Hct, Abu Dhabi Women's College
Hct, Al Ain Women's College
Hct, Dubai Women's College
Hct, Fujairah Women'S College
Hct, Ras Al Khaimah Men's College
Hct, Ras Al Khaimah Women's College
Hct, Sharjah Men's College
International College of Hotel Management and Tourism
Emirates Institute For Banking And Financial Studies (EIBFS)
The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management
The International College of Law and Business Administration