Retired Scottish judge urged to resign from Dubai International Financial Centre courts

Call follows resignation of two retired Irish judges from Dubai court

A retired Scottish judge has been urged to follow two retired senior Irish judges in resigning as a judge of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) courts.

Lord Angus Glennie, and other international judges of the DIFC courts, should not ignore “egregious” human rights abuses in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bill Shipsey, a retired senior counsel at the Irish Bar and executive member of Amnesty International, urged.

He made the call in an opinion article published on Monday in the Scottish edition of the Times newspaper.

Lord Glennie was sworn in as a judge of the DIFC courts last year before Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the president of the DIFC, ruler of Dubai and vice-president of the UAE.


The DIFC courts, which began operating in 2006, were set up as specialist courts to serve international institutions operating in Dubai and the UAE.

Unlike the rest of Dubai, which operates Sharia law, the DIFC courts are an independent English language common law judiciary operating within the 110-acre DIFC with jurisdiction governing civil and commercial disputes nationally, regionally and worldwide.

The 14 judges on the DIFC courts include four from the UAE with the rest from Australia, England and Wales, Malaysia, New Zealand and Scotland. Just one of the 14 is a woman.

Sheikh Al-Maktoum owns an estate at Wester Ross in the northwest Scottish highlands and is one of Ireland’s biggest landowners and a powerful figure in Irish horse racing, with holdings of more than 6,000 acres in counties Kildare, Meath and Tipperary.

Last year, Sheikh Al-Maktoum was ordered by the High Court in London to provide a record €650 million to one of his former wives, Princes Haya bint Hussein, to settle a custody battle over their two children. The London court said the bulk of the award was to ensure the lifetime security of Princess Haya, who had fled to the UK in 2019, and the two children, not least to address the “grave risk” posed to them by the sheikh himself.

In an earlier decision, the London court found Sheikh Al-Maktoum had carried out a campaign of threats and intimidation that made Princess Haya fear for her life and had previously abducted and mistreated two of his daughters by another marriage.

UAE criticism

In his opinion article, Mr Shipsey said that having highly respected former common law judges, including Lord Glennie, serving on the DIFC courts “no doubt enhances its reputation”.

“But the egregious human rights abuses committed by and on behalf of the Emirati regime should not be ignored. By their continued presence, the judges are unavoidably contributing to the legitimisation of the regime. I would therefore respectfully urge Lord Glennie to resign.”

Mr Shipsey wrote that the UAE regime does not have democratically elected institutions, citizens do not have the right to change their government or to form political parties and Emirati laws discriminate against women, migrants and LGBT individuals.

On July 27th last, former Irish Chief Justice Frank Clarke and former Irish High Court president, Peter Kelly, along with Sir William Young, a retired New Zealand judge and Michael Black, an English QC, were appointed judges of the DIFC. However, the appointments of the retired Irish judges met with a considerable negative reaction in legal circles here, including an Irish Times opinion article by Mr Shipsey.

On July 29th, Mr Clarke said he had submitted his resignation as a judge of the DIFC because he was concerned about the impact of the appointments controversy on the important work as president of the Law Reform Commission. On August 2nd, Mr Kelly said he had decided to resign because he did not want the controversy to disrupt his future time in retirement.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times