Abu Dhabi


Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts

Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) is located on Al Maryah Island, one of the islands in the archipelago of Abu Dhabi.  ADGM was established in 2013 as part of Abu Dhabi’s long-term programme of economic diversification. It is a financial free zone with its own legal personality. Its objectives are to: position the Emirate as a global financial centre; contribute to the economy of the Emirate; and make the Emirate an attractive environment for financial investment and for the activities of the international financial services industry.

ADGM comprises three authorities: the Registration Authority; the Financial Services Regulatory Authority; and Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts (ADGM Courts).  While the United Arab Emirates is predominantly a civil law jurisdiction, much influenced by French and Egyptian law, ADGM has its own system of law. It is not subject to the civil and commercial laws of the UAE. However, it is subject to the UAE criminal law. ADGM Courts do not have jurisdiction in family law. ADGM Courts and their jurisdiction are modelled on the English judicial system. The foundation of the system of civil and commercial law is provided by a set of regulations made in 2015. They make English common law, including the rules and principles of equity, together with a wide-ranging set of English statutes on civil matters directly applicable in ADGM.  The rules of procedure, which are supplemented by a comprehensive set of practice directions, are derived from the Civil Procedure Rules of England and Wales. There is also a supervisory jurisdiction in relation to arbitration proceedings where ADGM is the seat of arbitration.

ADGM Courts comprise a Court of First Instance, within which there is currently a Civil Division, an Employment Division and a Small Claims Division, and a Court of Appeal.  The judges are drawn from a variety of common law jurisdictions around the world.  They are headed by a Chief Justice, Lord Hope of Craighead KT, who before his retirement was the Deputy President of the UK Supreme Court. They include a former Justice of the UK Supreme Court, Lord Saville of Newdigate PC; a former Justice of the High Court of Australia, Kenneth Hayne AC; a former judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand, Sir Peter Blanchard KNZM; a former judge of the High Court in Hong Kong, William Stone SBS QC; two former judges of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of England and Wales, Sir Michael Burton and Sir Andrew Smith; and a former Chairman of the Scottish Land Court, Lord McGhie.  The registrar and chief executive is Linda Fitz-Alan, a former chief executive and principal registrar of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

All aspects of ADGM Courts’ business and operations are fully digitised via a unique “eCourts platform”. The platform includes electronic filing, a digital court file, a dedicated digital judges portal, electronic case management and embedded evidence bundles provided by the court at no cost to the parties. The platform also facilitates case management from remote locations as the judges are non-resident. ADGM Courts also have a full digital courtroom with a bespoke bench, multi-party capacity bar tables and capability for multiple remote witness or party connections with the court.  ADGM Courts opened for business in 2016 and are now building a caseload in the Court of First Instance.