The UAE Government has announced various decrees recently by amending some legal provisions in the corporate, criminal, civil, bankruptcy, personal status, and inheritance laws; which has been initiated in line with the UAE’s ongoing endeavors to enhance its legislative foundations to further develop its status as a global destination to attract foreign investment and expertise.
Please find below a concise brief of such salient changes:
- Significant changes to the UAE Companies Law were announced, in which as much as 51 articles would be amended with the introduction of 3 new ones. The landmark amendment being abolishing the requirement for onshore companies to have a major UAE shareholder/agent (amongst others).
- Honour crimes to be treated as murder and the death penalty for sex/rape with minors or someone with limited mental capacity.
- Attempted suicide to be decriminalised which was subject to prosecution previously, and such cases to be sent for treatment. Abetment to suicide still is considered a punishable offence.
- Alcohol consumption to no longer is considered as a criminal offense in absence of an alcohol license, as long as the individual is above the age of 21 and is possessing or selling alcohol in authorised areas/conditions; shall not face penalties. Having said this, each Emirate in the UAE has the authority to also issue its own regulatory rules in this regard.
- Legal cohabitation of unmarried couples to be allowed.
- Monetary penalties for public indecency for the first offence, rather than imprisonment.
- Authorised judicial officers to have an interpreter present if a suspect or a witness does not speak the Arabic language. Moreover, authorised judicial officers shall not reveal personal information of a victim, except if it is of sexual nature, involves an assault on minors, exploitation, and related threatening conditions.
- A person who committed a harmful act with good intentions towards a third party with the aim of assisting or rescuing that person who needed urgent help; to only be treated as an offence upon the sole discretion of the authorities.
- A partner in a business venture shall be potentially permitted to sell the entire venture, upon securing an order from the court; in the event that they are unable to sell their share in the venture to another partner. Such proceeds shall be divided among the partners as per the value of shares.
- New amendments to help individuals and businesses in “emergency situations” who cannot repay their debt or keep up with financial payments because of pandemics, natural disasters, or wars; by providing a lifeline of up to 12 months during which debtors can renegotiate their debt, consolidate their business, sell assets or secure additional funding to clear their loans and payments.
- The above amendments shall be applicable to all UAE companies, except those in the Dubai International Financial Centre or Abu Dhabi Global Market.
- The laws of the country in which the marriage took place shall apply with regards to the marriage terms in contrary to the previous provisions which applied the laws of the spouse’s nationality, including for personal and financial terms of the marriage contract, the divorce or the separation agreement, etc.
- Expatriates inheritance to be governed as per their nationality at the time of his/her death.
- General terms of the Will and other post-mortem terms shall be dealt with as per the law of the country specified in the Will, and in its absence, in accordance with the law of the country of nationality the deceased person had at the time of his/her death.
- The only exception is for properties purchased in the UAE, which will be governed by such applicable laws of the UAE accordingly.
It is important to note that as of the date of this Article, the above amendments have only been recently announced via various mediums in the public domain, which may be subject to further review, as they are yet to be published in the official gazette in the UAE for it to come into full legal force and effect.