Court notifications issued in Abu Dhabi will now be available in other languages, making the justice system more accessible to non-Arabic speaking residents.
Previously, residents entangled in the country’s predominantly Arabic-based legal system had to rely on the assistance of translators, lawyers or Arabic-speaking friends for assistance in translating court notifications and documents.
As of this week, however, all court summons will be issued in Arabic, English and Urdu, according to legal adviser Hesham Al Rafei.
“Taking into consideration that around 70 per cent of all expatriates are non-Arabs, it is only logical that court notification be translated into English and Urdu,” he said.
And more language options are “only the start” of changes to the capital’s legal system, Mr Al Rafei said.
“The plan is to reform the overall judicial system by making the court more user-friendly and accessible for everyone, and removing the language barrier.”
The move follows a series of changes to the emirate’s legal system over the past year that made the process more inclusive to non-Muslims and residents.
In May last year, laws governing wills were changed to allow non-Muslim residents to dictate where they wanted their assets to go to when they died.
Previously, Abu Dhabi had no way of registering wills drafted in the UAE or in an expatriate’s home country. Only Sharia law was applied.
In most cases, a court would freeze the deceased’s assets to ensure all their heirs were contacted before the estate was divided, resulting in long delays and high legal costs.
Yousef Al Ibri, Undersecretary at Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, said the move recognised the “realistic needs” of all sectors of society in the emirate.
Having court notifications issued solely in Arabic meant that those who spoke the language had an advantage over those who didn’t.
“The Arab litigant will easily understand everything from the first sight while the other foreign party will need to hire a lawyer at an extra cost or an ask an Arabic friend to translate, which is a breach of privacy,” said Mr Al Rafei.
“I call this the ‘blind party’ since the foreign party is literally blind as they cannot read, understand or know even the minimum of document’s contents,” he said. “Overall, this will affect the due process.”
Lawyer Huda Al Falamarzy said she knew of many occasions when defendants missed their court dates because they could not read or understand the notifications.
“This initiative is amazing and is a clear example of how accommodating and welcoming the UAE is to the different nationalities living in the country,” she said.
“There are many cases of confused defendants who miss crucial court dates and you will often see them in front of court seeking the help of anyone they can get a hold of to translate the notifications.
“For court notifications to be in several languages including Arabic just shows how developed and advanced the justice system is.”