30 Jun 2022

Hadef in the Courts: The Abu Dhabi Court of Cassation rules on an important private international law issue relating to claiming defamation in the UAE

Authored by: Salih Ahnaish

In brief:

  • It previously was unclear whether a claim for defamation may be brought in the UAE where the defamatory statement was published outside the UAE.
  • In a recent ruling the Abu Dhabi Court of Cassation held that there must be sufficient connection between the UAE and the elements of the tort of defamation for the UAE courts to have jurisdiction over the alleged defamer.
  • The Court of Cassation further held that, if the injury to the defamed person’s reputation and resulting damage occurred in the UAE, this is sufficient connection to give the UAE courts jurisdiction to hear a claim for defamation.

Hadef & Partners successfully advised in a case in which the Abu Dhabi Court of Cassation ruled on an important private international law issue.  The case involved a claim for damages before the Abu Dhabi courts as a result of a defamatory statement published in the UK, but which caused damage to the claimant’s reputation in the UAE, being his place of residence.

The case raised a key private international law issue because all the elements of the tort of defamation did not occur in the same jurisdiction. In essence, the injury to the reputation of the defamed person and the resulting damage occurred in a different jurisdiction to where the defamatory statement was published. This, therefore, raised the question of which jurisdiction the defamed person is able to sue the alleged defamer in. 

Both the Court of First Instance and Court of Appeal, in Abu Dhabi, adopted the test of publication for ascertaining the correct jurisdiction to hear the claim. Consequently, the lower courts dismissed the claim on the ground that the defamatory statement was published in the UK and, therefore, the Courts of England & Wales are the correct courts to hear the claim.

The Court of Cassation, however, adopted a different view. It held that the fact the injury to the defamed’s reputation and the resulting damage occurred in the UAE, meant that there was a substantial connection between the tort and the UAE. In this regard, the Court relied on Article 31 (2) of the UAE Civil Procedure Code which states that “[a]n action may be brought before the court within whose area the damage took place in respect of claims for compensation for damage to the person or to property”. The Court, therefore, overturned the judgment issued by the lower courts and held that the UAE courts have jurisdiction to hear the claim.

This judgment widens the ambit for bringing a claim for defamation in the UAE. It indicates that under UAE law the mere fact that defamatory communication to a third party occurs in a particular jurisdiction does not make that jurisdiction the sole place for the purpose of the tort of defamation. Rather, a claimant may also raise a claim in the courts of the place where the damage was suffered.

 
 

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