Norton Rose gives DIFC disputes leg-up

<a class=Norton Rose gives DIFC disputes leg-up” />Norton Rose has drafted a new arbitration law for The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) that will see the emirate look to compete with London, Paris and Singapore as an international forum for ­disputes.

The firm’s Middle East dispute resolution head Patrick Bourke, who led the Norton Rose team, said the new legislation, which came into force on 1 September, came about after the DIFC and the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) ;launched ;an ­arbitration centre earlier this year (The Lawyer, 18 February).

“The key change in the framework is that anyone can now come before the DIFC,” said Bourke. “Previously one or more parties had to be registered with the DIFC or be a lawyer from the region. Now it’s a neutral forum.”
Bourke explained that the DIFC’s initial aim is to retain arbitrations within Dubai but that the centre also feels it can now service international disputes.

“The previous law wasn’t something foreign lawyers had many dealings with,” explained Bourke. “But with the new legislation based on the LCIA framework – one of the longest established – lawyers will feel comfortable and use it effectively as it’s based on rules that they all know.”

The DIFC believes basing the Arbitration Act on ­English rules will help in its mission to corner international disputes.

Bourke, who was the ­primary adviser alongside Michael Black QC of Two Temple Gardens, said: “Dubai would be a good forum for, say, two Asian companies that want to arbitrate in a neutral forum but don’t want to go as far as London or Paris. The law also provides the Dubai Court the automatic right to enforce any DIFC arbitration ruling once made.”

DIFC governor Dr Omar Bin Sulaiman said the ­passing of the new law and the launch of the arbitration centre means that the DIFC now provides an all-round legal service for litigation.

“[It] will ensure that local, ;regional ;and global companies have an ­expeditious, cost-effective alternative to expensive, laborious dispute settlements traditionally done through the courts,” he said.

“By offering arbitration to companies throughout the world, the DIFC is ­reaffirming its commitment to creating a legal and ­regulatory environment of the highest standard that surpasses the requirements of ;leading ;financial ­institutions.”

The news of Dubai’s new arbitration rules come as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a whole is set to bring in its first standalone arbitration legislation.
“It’s a clear sign of how important ;the ;UAE believes arbitration will be,” said Bourke.

DIFC: The facts

• The DIFC was established in September 2004 as an on-shore international financial centre, occupying a 110-acre site in the centre of Dubai’s financial district.

• The centre has its own jurisdiction, separate from the civil and commercial laws of Dubai and the UAE.

• It is established as a judicial entity attached to the Government of Dubai and has its own independent regulatory authority, the Dubai Financial Services Authority, and judiciary, the DIFC Judicial Authority.

• The DIFC Courts are led by Chief Justice Sir Anthony Evans and Mr Michael Hwang SC as Deputy Chief ­Justice.

• In February the courts appointed six new judges, including Essex Court Chambers’ Sir Anthony Colman and David Williams QC, along with One Essex Court’s Sir John Chadwick.