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The Law of the Dubai International Financial Centre: Common Law Oasis or Mirage Within the UAE?

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image of Arab Law Quarterly

Despite the increasing trends towards a reassertion of Shari'a within the Arab world, the Emirate of Dubai has recently created a world-class financial hub, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). DIFC is under an independent, common law-based, parallel legal system (outside the Dubai and the UAE federal legal systems) which is backed by an independent judicial system. However, there are still certain hindrances, such as the financial dependence of the DIFC courts and the harmful requirement (controlled by the Dubai judge) of "appropriate for enforcement" of DIFC decisions seeking outside enforcement.

Furthermore, although DIFC legislation allows the application of a Shari'a-based national legislation (except for any provision contrary to any mandatory rule of a law in force in the DIFC), problems arise regarding the application of a-national Shari'a principles, mainly in Islamic Finance. Will common law oriented DIFC courts refer to recent British cases? In any case, it must be stated that even in the very unlikely situation of a challenge against DIFC laws on grounds of unconstitutionality (for being contrary to Art. 7), the pro-commercial approach of the Constitutional Chamber of the UAE Supreme Court, leads to conclude that no DIFC law would be strike down.


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