With expats making up nearly 90 per cent of its 9.5 million population, the UAE has introduced a change in its judicial process that could make it harder for non-Arab speakers to be sued in court. The move, which is expected to boost investment in the Emirates, will come into force from Sunday and will require plaintiffs in civil and commercial cases involving non-Arabic speaking defendants to translate case files into English.
It is the first such move in the region and is likely to be followed by neighbouring countries who also rely on expats and foreign investment.
The new rules introduced by the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department will apply to civil and commercial courts only, where the accuser is usually claiming money from defendants that can’t speak Arabic and are required to translate legal documents, sometimes by incurring exorbitant legal costs.
English is the only other language where the onus will be on the plaintiffs to translate the legal documents, which could potentially see a dramatic drop in long and complicated legal suits that are impossible for non-Arab speakers to decipher without the aid of competent translators.
“Before, you would find plaintiffs stretching claims that could have been summed up in 50 pages to 1,000 pages, just to complicate the litigation,” said Chief Justice Yousef Al Abri, who is the undersecretary of Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD).
According to the comments cited in the National newspaper, Al Abri went on to say that “this is unfair because it is the plaintiff who initiated the whole thing. The plaintiff is requesting something, so they should take the responsibility of paying for the translation.”
Al Abri explained that until now, non-Arab residents, who make up the majority of the population in the UAE, had “a problem” when they received court documents in Arabic. They might get confused as to what is being asked of them and, with each page of translation costing up to Dh100, it was costly. Now plaintiffs will be more likely to be efficient with their claims and stick to the necessary length.
The move is intended to boost foreign commercial investment in Abu Dhabi and will ally the concerns of companies who are said to be reluctant to invest in the Emirate due to concerns over court cases being filed only in Arabic.