ABU DHABI // Judges and public prosecutors are to be sent to study in some of Europe's top universities to prepare them for the introduction of specialised courts. At present legal officials can be asked to take on any type of case, but in future the intention is to encourage them to concentrate on a more specific aspect of law - such as business disputes or health negligence cases. Scholarships will be offered to qualified candidates to pursue postgraduate studies at reputed European law schools, deepening their understanding of different aspects of the law.
"To be eligible, candidates should have worked for four years in the judiciary after having graduated from a judicial institute," said Hadef Jua'an al Daheri, the Minister of Justice. He said the postgraduate scholarships were necessary to prepare judicial staff for the establishment of specialised courts. "We are pleased with their qualifications, but we would like them to be familiar with the experience of other countries. We believe that they will be highly qualified when they master more than one language and obtain a postgraduate degree. Their qualifications will eventually reflect on their performance in the newly established courts," he said in an interview published in Al Mizan, the ministry's monthly journal.
At a judicial forum in May, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, ordered the establishment of specialised courts in Dubai. Once these are up and running, specialised courts will be introduced in other emirates. The minister said the scholarship programme, scheduled to start in 2009, was open to Emirati male judges and public prosecutors. "Because of time constraints, we are not able to send them [overseas] this year. As a temporary measure, we are going to organise specialised language courses for the applicants," he said.
Mr Daheri said the academic preparation of the students would coincide with the establishment of specialised courts. "The graduates will be given priority in the recruitment of judicial staff for these newly set-up courts. However, they have an option to work in international co-operation, fatwa, legislation, state issues, or as legal consultants at the ministry," he said. For the time being, between five and 10 scholarships will be offered each year. Applicants will also need to have passed the university admission requirements. Some public prosecutors and judges are graduates of Shariah and not Law, but Mr Daheri said there would be no discrimination among judiciary staff. However, the ministry will have to observe admission requirements set by the selected universities.
"After all, the candidates should meet the required credits in legal studies," he said. "The ministry can choose to send graduates of Shariah to universities in the Arab Muslim world." Well-established universities will be given top priority, he said, adding that the ministry expected the graduates to work in the areas it had specified on their return for the same amount of time they spent in their postgraduate studies.
Mr Daheri said scholarships would not yet be offered to Emirati female applicants but that an expected amendment to the federal judiciary law would pave the way for women to sit as federal court judges. He praised the women who are currently working on fatwa, legislation and state issues, and encouraged them to study these disciplines. "We are considering recruiting such professionals in the courts since the judicial authority law allows individuals with legal experience to join the judiciary."