'World's first' digital courtroom launched by Abu Dhabi commercial free zone

Abu Dhabi Global Market, which operates Al Maryah island, has launched what is believed to be the world's first digital courtroom

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - December 09, 2018: Minister of Justice HE Sultan Saeed Al Badi at the launch of the digital courtroom in Abu Dhabi Global Markets courts, it is the first all-digital courtroom in the world. Sunday the 9th of December 2018 at Abu Dhabi Global Market Authorities, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Abu Dhabi Global Market, which operates the free zone on Al Maryah island, Abu Dhabi, has launched a digital courtroom to deal with business cases and commercial disputes.

The island, which is home to some of the capital’s top commercial outlets, including the Galleria Mall and the soon to launch Al Maryah Central shopping centre, has its own court.

They have processed 20 cases, ranging from debt, employment, commercial disputes and urgent interim applications, since they were launched in May 2016.

They operate in the English language to make things simpler for international businesses, follow UK common law and have memorandums of understanding with the UAE Ministry of Justice, Abu Dhabi Judicial Department and Ras al Khaimah Court on the local level, and with judicial systems in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and the commercial court in London.

The new digital courtroom enables judges, witnesses, lawyers or plaintiffs from anywhere in the world to participate in a hearing though advanced video conference technology.

The system saves cost and time, and makes the process more convenient for companies with offices overseas.

There are screens behind the judges’ bench and in the witness box allowing legal representatives, witnesses and judges to appear in hearing from different locations around the world.

Believed to be the first of its kind worldwide, the digital courtroom follows an e-platform launched at the beginning of this year. It provides case files in digital form that can be accessed by mobile from anywhere in the world.

“No matter where you are, no matter the time of day, you can enter your case page and see every single document filed for your case,” said Lynda Fitz-Alan, registrar and chief executive of ADGM Courts.

If anything changes with a case file, it is simultaneously communicated to the involved parties through the platform. The platform also provides links to view case hearings.


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“We can finish a trial session digitally without boundaries and listen to witnesses, if needed,” said Ms Fitz-Alan.

A “tremendous amount of time and money” is spent on delivering documents and serving parties, but, according to Ms Fitz-Alan, the new system will streamline the process.

So far two cases have taken place in the digital courtroom. The most recent was an employment case, which took place on Saturday night with a judge in London.

The other was an “urgent application case” last week in relation to a disputed commercial contract.

Anybody can file a case if it is within the jurisdiction of the court. This includes all organisations on Al Maryah island and organisations that are within the jurisdiction of judicial systems that ADGM Courts and the UAE Ministry of Justice have agreements with.

Any party is also able to add into a contract that ADGM Courts are the judicial authority to litigate if a dispute were to occur, regardless of where they are based.