Middle East A&O disputes update: the UAE revises its Arbitration Law
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The UAE has recently revised its federal Arbitration Law through Federal Decree No. (15) of 2023, which came into force on 16 September 2023.
This revision comes five years after the UAE introduced the federal Arbitration Law, Federal Law No. (6) of 2018, and makes the key changes described below.
Arbitrator qualifications (Articles 10 and 10 bis):
- introduce an express restriction on arbitrator candidates, disqualifying those who have a direct relationship with parties to the proceedings. This amendment is consistent with the existing requirements on arbitrator candidates to disclose anything likely to give rise to doubts in respect of their impartiality or independence and the ability to challenge the appointment of an arbitrator where there are justifiable doubts as to their impartiality or independence; and
- remove the prohibition on arbitrators (other than a sole arbitrator or the president of the tribunal) acting in proceedings administered by arbitral institutions in which they hold supervisory roles. The exception to the prohibition is subject to certain requirements, including a special governance system being put in place in the institution to prevent a conflict, and confirmation of no objection from the parties. Parties and arbitrators should still proceed with caution, however, as the amendments make clear that any violation would invalidate the award and give the parties the right to seek compensation from the institution and the arbitrator.
Hearings (Articles 28 and 33)
The amendments provide that hearings may be conducted virtually and also require arbitration centres in the UAE to provide the necessary technology. This reflects the growing trend for virtual hearings instead of in-person hearings.
The amendments also introduce the concept of a “documents only” arbitration which removes the requirement for hearings to be held at the request of one of the parties. The decision on whether to hold a hearing is now at the tribunal’s discretion.
These amendments to the UAE Federal Arbitration Law reflect changes in regional and international arbitration practice and are a positive indication that the UAE is building on its reputation as an ‘arbitration friendly’ jurisdiction.
Should you wish to discuss this in more detail, please contact a member of our Middle East Disputes team, their contact details are available below.