Reforms Abolish English to Arabic Court Translations in Abu Dhabi

Recently introduced law reforms have removed potential language impediments in Abu Dhabi’s legal system by ending the requirement to translate court documents from English to Arabic.

The new law allows entire court proceedings to be executed in English, saving time and effort, reducing translation cost linked to proceedings, and ensuring faster processing through the system.

According to the Khaleej Times online, the ruling was made in line with the Abu Dhabi bi-lingual court world-class project after English was finally recognized as the second official language of the region in 2018 (Arabic remains the first official language).

This is good news for non-Arabic speaking expats and residents, as it is now mandatory for claimants in a lawsuit to issue court documents in English for non-Arabic speakers.

Expats facing the Abu Dhabi courts “enjoy a unique privilege that is not available in any other court in the region.”

Forms, legal documentation, and court hearings are available in English, with every single phase of litigation accessible for non-Arabic speaking individuals, protecting rights to due process and easing access to justice.

Abu Dhabi court will also have a bi-lingual court panel with both English-speaking and Arabic-speaking judges presiding over proceedings and issuing judgements in both languages.

With people from over 200 nationalities at present, living and working in Abu Dhabi, and with the majority of these unable to read Arabic, their rights are now safeguarded by these reforms.

Protecting expats’ rights to be treated fairly, justly and without the hinderance of a language barrier, the Emirate now offers an unrivalled equality and a world-class judiciary system.

These legal reforms are linked to the Emirate’s wider economic and social plans for modernization of the dispute resolution system and highlights the ease of doing business in the capital.

“An efficient and transparent online court ecosystem and a business-friendly strategy are crucial for supporting and enhancing the emirate’s modernity, attracting foreign investment and encouraging the best talents to live and work in Abu Dhabi.”

However, the reforms are wider reaching than the aforementioned language and translation changes, aiming to bring Abu Dhabi in line with new socio-economic reality.

Other changes include:

• Civil Marriage – interfaith relationships can be registered without being subject to Shariah law. Residents and tourists can now marry freely.

• No-fault divorce – women can file for divorce quickly without worrying about their financial situation.

• 50/50 custody of children – the child’s best interests come first with joint custody after divorce

• Non-Muslim judges – are now allowed to hear cases for the first time in the Arab world

• Gender equality – men and women are to be treated equally in the eyes of the law in every case

• Unmarried parenting – a child born out of wedlock will now be legally recognized

• Family arbitration – is being introduced as an alternative dispute resolution to aid divorce settlements and family disputes

• Right of audience – foreign lawyers are now allowed to appear in court

The UAE, as a whole kingdom, has made sweeping changes to the legal system in recent months in a bid to promote a more conducive atmosphere for expats to settle and invest in the country.

Similarly, tourists now enjoy more freedom and can consume alcohol without the need for a licence and are able to marry in civil ceremonies.

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