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“British Bar should cancel their seminar with Dubai arbitration”. Lawyers outraged after law journal

International lawyers are taking issue with the British & Irish Commercial Bar Association (BICBA) holding a seminar in collaboration with the University of Dubai and the Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) on the 14th of March. The agenda for the seminar is to discuss and promote the UAE as a “world centre for arbitration”. The Solicitors Journal reported “Commercial Bar under fire for promoting Dubai as a world arbitration centre” last week. The Law Society Gazette similarly published “Don’t promote the UAE, bar association warned”.


Ben Cooper, Barrister of Doughty Street Chambers, David Haigh, Solicitor and former Leeds United MD and Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai raised the issue with BICBA, strongly advising them to avoid promoting Dubai due to widescale legal abuse and corruption. Stirling advised the BICBA that the chairman of DIAC had been directly involved in serious evidenced misconduct, citing the Haddad case, where DIAC & Baker & McKenzie Chairman Dr Habib Al Mulla illegally represented both parties in civil proceedings without permission or knowledge in one of the most blatant cases of abuse. So far, neither Al Mulla nor Baker & McKenzie have responded to correspondence from “Detained in Dubai” on the issue.

Radha Stirling said today “If the head of arbitration in Dubai would be disbarred and jailed in the UK, how can Dubai be trusted or respected as an arbitration venue of choice? The UAE has an immature judiciary and legal abuse is commonplace and culturally acceptable. Even if the laws themselves are changed, society will take a long time to catch up”.

Following the law journal publications, solicitors and barristers worldwide have expressed their dissatisfaction at the prospect of the UK bar association supporting the DIAC. Prominent US attorney and professor, Dr Jonathan Levy said on the topic “I have had clients wrongfully imprisoned in the UAE. Non citizens have very few rights and the civil law system leaves much to be desired. Why anyone would promote such a place as desirable to conduct arbitration is beyond me. Make them come to London where the rule of law prevails in my advice”.

Other industry professionals commented “the judicial system in the UAE is not suitable for an arbitration centre. The management and control of the centre will be subject to local judicial influence” and “The UN report on theIndependence of Judges and Lawyers in UAE pinpoints the reasons behind the corruption and the executive branch controlling the judicial system”.

Radha Stirling said “Since the law journal publication, we have received correspondence from a number of lawyers, predominantly from the UK, but also other European countries and the US. The support is coming from solicitors and barristers who are experienced in dealing with matters stemming from the UAE judiciary. Many of them are outraged and believe the BICBA should cancel their seminar. The general sentiment has been that they find it difficult to comprehend how the BICBA can work with Al Mulla or endorse the Emirates system in any way. They have wondered whether the BICBA even reviewed the innumerable cited cases of legal abuse, before having agreed to attend the seminar. If they haven’t, they should do so immediately. It is unethical for them to continue in their pursuit of the promoting Dubai’s arbitration centre now that they have been made aware”.

British lawyers who are experienced with UAE legal and judicial practice have expressed concern over the BICBA encouraging and promoting a judicial system with a proven track record of:

  • Corruption

  • Legal Abuse

  • Unfair Trials

  • Denial of access to justice

  • Wrongful Interpol reports

  • Arbitrary detentions

  • Human rights violations

Detained in Dubai, a UK based legal organisation specialising in UAE criminal and civil justice has expressed “serious concern” that the BICBA is “fueling propaganda that Dubai has an equivalently competent justice system”.

Its founder, Ms Radha Stirling, who has appeared as a country expert in extradition and civil hearings in the UK and USA, said “I have contacted the BICBA speakers directly to inform them that their co speaker, Chairman of DIAC, Habib Al Mulla, has been directly responsible for serious legal malpractice against British nationals that would see him disbarred and very likely imprisoned in the UK. Al Mulla illegally represented both parties in legal proceedings more than twenty times. He had no authority to do so and faked the representation of the British National, Mohamed Haddad. He had no Power of Attorney and the Court allowed it, possibly due to his influence and friendship with the Ruler of Dubai. His purpose in carrying out this most unethical and unlawful act was to use the proceedings to falsely confess to a crime on behalf of Haddad. He then used the civil court order to open fake criminal allegations against Haddad to render Haddad incapable of seeking remedy. This entirely convoluted legal abuse facilitated the deliberate theft of Haddad’s cash and assets, which were sold to the Ruler of Dubai’s cousin for $0. This case is entirely evidenced and the details are available on our website Habib al Mulla and Baker & McKenzie’s have not commented yet.

Caroline Ansell MP has raised this matter with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office who have expressed that this represents a breach of the UK’s Treaty with the UAE.

The case of Haddad is a perfectly evidenced example of legal abuse and corruption in the UAE. We, as an organisation, have dealt with countless other cases of very similar abuses, confirming that the UAE has an immature legal system, is subject to regular abuse and can not be considered a stable or competent jurisdiction for any dispute resolution or arbitration, particularly when the Chairman himself, is a practitioner of these abuses. The UAE’s legal failings have been highlighted in UK judicial proceedings, in the media and via our organisation’s website, which has since been banned and censored in the UAE. However, it is also hidden by the Dubai Media Office whose public relations department tries to disguise these regular failings with positive publicity. The government has chosen to invest in public relations, rather than in actual judicial improvement, the elimination of abuse and corruption. The BICBA should reconsider promoting a jurisdiction that systematically abuses British nationals for, if they do, they are supporting and condoning these violations”.

Extradition barrister Ben Cooper of Doughty Street Chambers commented “I have successfully defended a number of clients against extradition requests from the UAE, have worked closely with Radha Stirling of Detained in Dubai, and have become well versed with UAE judicial abuses of procedure and law. Based on my experience and knowledge, I would not recommend that the BICBA promote the DIAC as a centre for arbitration at this time. The UAE needs to address and remedy judicial failings before it should be considered as a possible legal jurisdiction of choice”.

Solicitor (non practising), Former MD of Leeds United and Partner at Detained in Dubai, Mr David Haigh said “I have practised law in both the UK and the UAE but unfortunately, I myself have first-hand experience of the legal system in Dubai. I was wrongfully imprisoned, arbitrarily detained. I have submitted an application to the UN for a ruling on my arbitrary detention and the human rights abuses that I suffered. I concur that the UAE judicial system, including the DIAC is, without any doubt, open to significant legal abuse and corruption. At present, until the UAE judicial system undergoes significant reform, the DIAC can by no means, be considered a, just, independent, safe or modern dispute resolution centre. I think it is fair to say that, he BICBA in promoting it as such, would be aiding the DIAC to abuse more unsuspecting expatriate businessmen and I would urge them to reconsider such support. I recommend the forum be suspended until the UAE confronts and addresses the significant corruption in its legal and justice system, which has not kept pace with the remainder of the very positive advances made by Dubai and the wider UAE in other areas. We, at Detained in Dubai, are assisting a British National right now who has been in arbitrary detention for over one year without charge. He was falsely accused of embezzling from a company he did not even work for. He has provided all of the evidence to this effect and the Dubai court even ordered that he be bailed but the Dubai prosecution has refused to comply. To the unknowing holiday maker or businessmen these tales, we hear regularly, all seem far-fetched. However, his account, is just too similar to my own experience in the lawless state of Dubai.”

Detained in Dubai is opening discussions with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to increase travel and investment warnings to citizens based on regular legal abuse and corrupt practices directed at foreign nationals. The FCO is aware of the prevalence of judicial failings in the UAE and are expected to support amendments to travel warnings. It is also very important to warn investors of the financial risks and dangers that have seen many businesses essentially stolen from expatriates.

Any promotion acts as a catalyst for further wrongful detentions, unfair trials and the violation of the rights and freedoms of our own nationals.


Notes for Editors:

About Detained in Dubai

Detained in Dubai is a not for profit organisation formed to assist people who have become victims of injustice in the United Arab Emirates. The organisation has advised and assisted more than 10,000 people to date.

Detained in Dubai assist with case strategy, press, negotiating the legal system in the UAE and whatever it takes to achieve a positive outcome.

Detained in Dubai assist people who are facing sometimes unbelievable situations that they never imagined possible, some with extensive international business and travel experience.

They act as a communications platform for international journalists reporting on foreign news, travel news, business news, higher educations news, and even now arts news, golfing news, racing news, etc.--as the very troubling situation is affecting all sectors with people like you working in and visiting the UAE.

They produce case studies, many which have not yet been reported by the media, because the victims are afraid to speak out.

They are convinced that more international visibility and pressure will lead to faster reform and the UAE can become a mutually and culturally respectful, international meeting point for all.

Radha Stirling, Founder & CEO of Detained in Dubai

Radha Stirling's experience includes law, finance, business and media. Now acting as a legal consultant, specialising in Middle Eastern law, she has represented a number of high profile clients in multi jurisdictional and often UAE orienting cases.

Miss Stirling has acted as an expert witness in extradition cases, has worked closely with foreign government and has advised Parliaments internationally.

Miss Stirling’s work has been regularly reported in the local and International broadcast and print media including BBC, CNN, NBC, ABC and Al Jazeera. Miss Stirling continues with her goal to influence change in judicial systems internationally.

Ben Cooper, Extradition Barrister

Ben defends some of the most complex and difficult extradition and criminal cases at all levels resulting in numerous successes on human rights and humanitarian grounds. Ben acted for Gary McKinnon since his arrest in 2005 on a US extradition warrant all the way up to the House of Lords and European Court and for subsequent judicial reviews against the Secretary of State and DPP, finally securing his discharge on Article 3 grounds. He acts for Liberty defending a victim of serious domestic violence who is wanted in the US in relation to allegations of international child abduction. He represented Babar Ahmad and others accused of terrorism by the USA facing indefinite solitary confinement within federal Supermax prisons, ETA suspects, IRA suspects and terrorist allegations on the African continent.

He advises Governments on how to secure extradition agreements and local authorities on how to secure the return of fugitives. He defeated a German extradition request for IRA allegations before the High Court in Belfast. A number of his clients have obtained relief from the European Court preventing removal to the US on both Article 3 and Article 8 grounds. Ben has successfully campaigned and lobbied Parliament for the introduction of the forum bar to extradition. He successfully defended Richard O’Dwyer against the US Government’s request for his extradition for Copyright offences securing the first Deferred Prosecution Agreement to be used in the extradition context which resulted in his successful High Court appeal and subsequent withdrawal of all criminal charges against him in the US.

In November 2012, Ben was honoured by Liberty as Human Rights Lawyer of the Year. To read more please click here. Ben has been highly recommended for many years in Chambers and Partners where he is top ranked as an extradition specialist and in The Legal 500 where he has been ranked top tier for his criminal law expertise.

Ben has successfully defended extradition cases taken on by Fair Trials International and is also a member of Fair Trials International’s Legal Experts Advisory Panel, a formal network of defence lawyers, criminal justice NGOs and academics from across Europe which highlights priorities for reform in order to assure fair trial rights across the EU.

David Haigh, Solicitor & Partner at Detained in Dubai

David is the former managing director of top English Football club Leeds United. Prior to that he worked as a lawyer in the world’s leading law firms and in financial institutions in Dubai, London and the Caribbean for 15 years. David has been nominated for legal counsel of the year in the Middle East and various other legal awards in London numerous times.

David was arbitrarily detained in Dubai in 2014 after he was falsely lured there from Leeds, wrongfully accused, then acquitted. David is currently taking the UAE and the DIFC Courts to the United Nations and his case for redress in the UK has been before the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.

Habib Al Mulla, Chairman of DIAC & Baker & McKenzie

Dr. Habib Al Mulla, chairman of Baker & McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, has over 32 years’ experience in UAE law and has drafted many of Dubai’s modern legislative structures.

He is chairman of the Dubai International Arbitration Centre’s Board of Trustees, and chairman of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators’ UAE committee. Dr. Al Mulla is a frequent commentator on UAE legislation and economy and is often consulted to draft and advise on Federal and Emirate level laws. He created the concept of financial free zones in the UAE and was the architect of the legal framework establishing the Dubai International Financial Centre. He also served as legislative committee chairman of the Dubai Financial Services Authority.

Press Contact: Radha Stirling-

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