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Dubai Hosts International Moot Court for Space Disputes

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The inaugural Courts of Space Moot Court, a joint initiative between the Dubai Future Foundation and the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts, launched a hybrid competition held between May 7 – May 21.

A total of 15 university teams entered the Moot Court competition across a four day preliminary and quarter-final rounds, with the semi-final rounds and final conducted at the DIFC Courts.

By participating in the moot, students gained valuable insight into the DIFC Courts Rules in relation to conflict on matters such as breach of contract and regulation in relation to space tourism. At the same time, scenarios were developed to better understand the cases that might emerge in this relatively novel environment.

Hamad Bin Khalifa University and the Gujarat National Law University competed in the final round of the competition with Qatar’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University emerging as eventual winners in a closely contested finale. Moot Court event partners from Middlesex University, webnyay and Space Monitor Middle East joined the Dubai Future Foundation and DIFC Courts with recognition and awards for the winning team and for individual outstanding performances during the competition.     

His Excellency Justice Omar Al Mheiri, Director, DIFC Courts, said: “The launch of the Courts of Space project signals to the international space community the intent of the DIFC Courts to assist the UAE to play a leading role in advancing its judicial systems to specifically direct capacity and capability to commercial space-related disputes. Whilst the court will convene firmly on the ground in Dubai and not in space, our judges are acquiring the specialist skills to be able to hear space economy-related disputes. Training and the development of guides and of best practices will be a key to ensuring that the space courts in Dubai become the courts of choice. These competing teams in this year’s Moot Court represent the next generation of potential space lawyers and we are proud to be helping shape their future knowledge and expertise through this Moot Court exercise.”

Launched in 2021 in partnership with Dubai Future Foundation, the Courts of Space project joined the Courts of the Future, which was established in 2017 with a mandate to explore diverse legal technology topic areas and to provide research and thought leadership on promoting and encouraging contemporary methods of greater accessibility and efficiency to court users across the globe.

His Excellency Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation said: “As a leading hub for innovation, Dubai is the ideal platform for addressing complex issues in key areas that are still being shaped, such as space law. Dubai Future Foundation is committed to transforming Dubai into a city of the future and drives initiatives to foster a dynamic environment for innovation and collaboration. The Courts of Space Moot Court is an important initiative underlining Dubai’s role as a sandbox for developing, piloting, and scaling ideas. It also highlights Dubai as a leading destination for high-calibre talent and a platform where collaboration and innovation go hand in hand. The Moot Court stimulates healthy competition among these talents, nurturing their skills and encouraging them to think beyond traditional borders and look to new horizons in their field.”

Amnas Al Owais, Chief Registrar, DIFC Courts said: “Courts of the Space is a recognition that science and space exploration will throw all sorts of new challenges towards legal systems, and that anticipating and preparing for them is preferable to reacting in hindsight. While space law is nothing new, an important next step will be for the DIFC Courts to develop and establish its worth as a commercial go-to court for these matters.”

Lidia Kamleh, Chief of Legal Affairs at DFF said: “The Courts of Space Moot Court competition exemplifies the spirit of innovation and forward-thinking that defines Dubai Future Foundation. This event provided aspiring legal professionals with a unique platform to tackle complex and emerging issues in space law, fostering a deeper understanding and pioneering solutions in this frontier field. I am immensely proud of all the participants for their exceptional talent and insightful analysis. Their remarkable achievements underscore the vital role that legal innovation plays in shaping the future. At DFF, our legal team drives transformative change, pioneering legal frameworks that anticipate and empower the technologies of tomorrow.”

Partnering with key private sector players and gaining trust to become a specialised court for commercial agreements will be key. More dynamically, space courts resolution might be required as satellites collide or impact a spacecraft. Space courts would be called upon to adjudicate responsibility, damages, and liabilities, as is the case with any commercial dispute.

In 2020, the UAE became a key player in space exploration; it aims to reinforce its position by enhancing its standing as a global business centre for trade, logistics, finance, innovation, and technology. The UAE has massively boosted its science capacity, with new data expected to now flow from probes to fill a gap in research and provide the world with more information about our solar system and beyond.