DIFC Courts continues to consolidate its status as the region’s pre-eminent forum for English language dispute resolution

25 Apr 2024

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts today released its annual figures for the full year of 2023. The English-language, common law judiciary witnessed continued growth to help global businesses resolve their largest and most complex disputes while becoming the increasingly preferred forum for settling the smaller claims of corporations, SMEs, and individuals.

His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the UAE, and President of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), affirmed that the increasingly international nature of the DIFC Courts’ caseload is a clear signal that international businesses with interests in the Middle East region consider Dubai and the DIFC Courts to be their first choice for dispute resolution.

His Highness further said: “The strong growth momentum arising from the implementation of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33, and the Dubai Digital Strategy has touched a diverse range of sectors, including government legal services. We have empowered the DIFC Courts to spearhead some of the UAE’s most progressive dispute resolution services, supported by smart technology implementations. This innovative strategy of the DIFC Courts is inspired by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to establish the city as one of the world’s leading financial hubs and set new global standards in judicial dispute settlement.”

Signalling strong public confidence, the workload of the main Court of First Instance (CFI), including arbitration-related cases and counter claims, recorded 111 cases, with a total case value of AED16.5 billion. 

An average case value of AED228.8 million was recorded across CFI cases. The total value of cases related to the Arbitration Division of the DIFC Courts was AED13.4 billion, with the average case value standing at AED955.2 million. 

Cases brought before the CFI covered a range of sectors including banking and finance, real estate, retail, and manufacturing, and involved disputes related to breach of contract, insolvency, arbitration agreements, and employment.

Reinforcing the Courts’ record of certainty for business through enforceable judgments, a total of 325 enforcement claims were filed in 2023.
The Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) recorded 522 cases in 2023. Cases were primarily related to disputes related to breach of contract, property and tenancy, employment, and banking and finance. 

Underlining the SCT’s increasing popularity for SME-related dispute resolution, the total value of claims recorded in 2023 was AED52 million, an increase of 20% compared with the same period in 2022. The average case value recorded at the SCT for 2023 was AED105,000, an increase of 9% from 2022.

Zaki Azmi, Chief Justice, DIFC Courts, said: “In 2023, the DIFC Courts recorded increases in both the volume and value of cases in almost every instance, a reflection of the continued trust in our forum to solve the region’s diverse range of disputes. The increase in enforcement applications also highlights our ability to assist businesses through a robust national, regional, and international enforcement network. We are particularly proud of the continued success of the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT), which is proving a vital mechanism for the region’s SME community to access justice.”

National connectivity
In 2023, the DIFC Courts forged partnership agreements with Dubai Chambers to drive closer collaboration in support of Dubai and the UAE’s economic ambitions, as well Ras Al Khaimah Digital Assets Oasis (RAK DAO), that will drive greater awareness of DIFC Courts digital economy services to businesses operating within Ras Al Khaimah’s newly launched digital economy freezone. 

His Excellency Justice Omar Al Mheiri, Director, DIFC Courts, said: “The performance of the DIFC Courts in 2023 is testament to the maturity of both our service offering and to the infrastructure we continue to develop to meet the evolving needs of court users. Adopting user-friendly procedures, reinforcing the overall courts experience, and fine-tuning effective and less-expensive access to dispute resolution procedures are core pillars to our mission, working in tandem with national mandates to support Dubai and the UAE’s economic ambitions. Future strategies from the DIFC Courts will continue to prioritise transparent and robust access to an efficient suite of dispute resolution services.”

Ancillary services
The most noteworthy development within the ancillary services offered by the DIFC Courts was the surge in registrations of Wills: in 2023, the Wills Service registered over 1,500 Wills, a 26% increase from 2022. In addition, the total number of Probate applications related to Wills in 2023 rose 21% from 2022 to reach 28.