Dubai creates “space court” to settle commercial disputes

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Dubai provides for the creation of a “space court” to settle commercial disputes related to space activities. The announcement comes as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) strengthens its presence in space.

In the 1960s, the potential militarization of space led several countries to draft and sign the United Nations Outer Space Treaty (1967). This document then made it possible to lay the legal foundations for space exploration, notably prohibiting the placing of nuclear missiles and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Earth orbit.

Since then, the situation has changed. “Space terrain” is no longer exclusively reserved for public actors, now involving more and more private commercial companies. The leaders of the United Arab Emirates thus decided that it was time to put in place a new judicial environment to meet the new business demands.

In this spirit, the latter announced on Monday the forthcoming creation of a “space court” based at the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC Courts). Created in 2004 to settle disputes between companies and / or investors, this structure is governed by a British-inspired judicial system, based on Common law and in English. It is therefore a system independent of the law of the United Arab Emirates.

The Space Tribunal is a global initiative that will run alongside (space activities), helping to build a new judicial support network to meet the stringent business requirements of space exploration“, a declared Zaki Azmi, President of DIFC Courts.

The Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC Courts). Credit: Sarah Dea / The National

The UAE is making a place for itself in space

Why now ? In fact, the United Arab Emirates are increasingly taking up space in the space sector. After sending his first astronaut in space in 2019, remember that the country launched last year a probe to Mars, baptized Hope. His arrival is scheduled for February 10. Placed at an altitude of around 40,000 km, it will then aim to study Martian atmosphere and climate. Recall that the UAE also has lunar objectives.

Also, all these ambitions “opened our eyes” to the fact that “the UAE needs an appropriate infrastructure, clarity and (legal) security in the event of disputes relating to space activities ”Amna Al-Owais, Chief Registrar of DIFC Courts, told AFP.

According to the Emirati official, companies and institutions in the country, but also abroad, will be able to appeal to this court. “The Court will apply the law of their choice, whether French, British or otherwise. It does not have to be a law of the United Arab Emirates“, She clarified.

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