PART 1: INTRODUCTION TO THE DUBAI INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL CENTRE

So for those who I have interacted with in the last few weeks must have heard a mention of the word ‘DIFC’. This opportunity was accorded to us during the international law school trip where we paid a visit to the centre. The DIFC stands for Dubai International Financial Centre, located in Dubai it is a host to more than 1853 registered companies. The Centre acts as a meeting point for most foreign investors coming to set shop in Dubai. Two factors make this place lucrative for the businesses; the registration process and the legal framework in use at the Centre which are among the top factors in allocating the ease of doing business index. DIFC has an authority other than the state authority that assists in registration of businesses, administration and strategic development.

On the legal side of it, there are two limbs; the current courts and a new division to be established dubbed “Courts of the Future”. The article shall focus on the Courts of the Future project. The project is quite ambitious in my opinion due to two factors namely; the intended operation of the courts and the cases which it intends to take up.

The courts will conduct all its transactions on a paperless basis. This means that from the point of instituting a claim to the point of receiving a judgement all activities will be conducted online. More details on how the online activities will be performed shall be highlighted on the rules of the court.

In terms of the cases to be dealt with DIFC is taking the bold move to deal with innovations and the liability that can arise out of the use of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, autonomous cars, 3D printing (it is interesting to note that DIFC buildings are the world’s first 3D printed buildings), block chain technology and though not an innovation, it will deal with cybersecurity issues. The courts will deal with such matters only when the parties have submitted to their jurisdiction.

The courts have also developed the “Part 40,000 Principles” which are the foundation of the operation of this division of the court. Interestingly, the court will apply these technologies that it seeks to adjudge on. One such example is the option where a successful litigant could opt to have their interim/ final payment made in cryptocurrency or online assets instead of fiat money.

During the short but impactful visit to the Centre the presenter, Mr. Charlie Riggs gave good insights on how these innovative technologies can be used to deliver justice in the court system and I could not help but think of how such technology could be utilized in Kenyan courts. First, in a bid to reduce the back log of cases in the courts, AI can be used to settle small and simple claims. The government through the Small Claims Court Act, 2016 under section 23 provides that proceedings can be carried out through electronic means, this is a step in the right direction. However, the efforts to speed up court processes could be bolstered by introducing AI supported mechanisms for adjudicating; it would be expeditiously resolve cases.

Additionally, courts can use block chain technology to store evidence to prevent evidence tampering and also for sharing and effecting judgements throughout various jurisdictions especially in private international law where the law has evolved to permit judgements of one country to be recognized in other countries in civil and commercial matters. The case of DNB Bank ASA v Gulf Eyadah Corporation and Gulf Navigation Holdings PJSC which involved enforcement and recognition of a foreign judgement order that the DIFC courts were granted jurisdiction to enforce the order. In this case which involved a dispute over the payments of a ship, the respondents had vacated the one of the ships away from the jurisdiction of the English courts to UAE jurisdiction, it is on these grounds that the case was submitted to the Dubai jurisdiction and later on to DIFC courts which operates under common law. The case had to deal with the legality of submitting the matter to DIFC. However, had the countries mutually agreed to share such judgements using distributed ledgers, it would have been easier to enforce the judgements.

This discussion will set the base for the next article that shall delve more into the foundational Part 40,000 principles” as we break down the terms and the tackle the legal aspects therein.