The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts has acquired the qualified electronic seal solution Ethaq, a paperless initiative that enables digital authenticity of documents with the support of UAE PASS, the secure national digital identity platform for the United Arab Emirates.
Ethaq certificate is powered by Dubai Electronic Security Center (DESC) and its Root Certificate Authority. It recognises the DIFC Courts as the first Dubai entity to acquire the entirely paperless certificate that enables court documents to be electronically signed, issued, and authenticated. Ethaq also integrates UAE PASS, the secure national digital identity platform of the UAE, in collaboration with Smart Dubai, to provide an end-to-end signing solution that combines both an electronic seal and an electronic signature solution based on digitally verifiable identities.
The electronic seal Ethaq will also reinforce the security and integrity of the documentation and eradicates tampering of official documents, enabling users to digitally verify the authenticity of any legal documents through the DIFC Courts website.
H.E. Omar Juma Al Mheiri, Deputy Chief Justice, DIFC Courts, said: “As the first UAE Court to integrate this solution, we are maintaining our assertive push towards digital transformation and equipping our court users with the most advanced tools to ensure ease of accessing our services. This new innovative eService will ensure that the DIFC Courts continues to fulfil the requirements under the Dubai Paperless Strategy 2021 and create legal security and certainty for businesses in an era of technological disruption.”
H.E. Yousef Al Shaibani, Director General, Dubai Electronic Security Center (DESC), said: “We are pleased to mark ‘Ethaq’ as a monumental and revolutionary milestone in our journey towards achieving excellence for making Dubai the safest city in cyberspace. ‘Ethaq’ is one of DESC’s continuous efforts in adopting forefront technologies to protect Dubai digitally. This initiative reinforces the efficiency of digital services to support the city’s smart transformation and achieves the visionary goals set by the Dubai Cyber Security Strategy.”
H.E. Wesam Lootah, CEO of the Smart Dubai Government Establishment, said: “Dubai’s journey to becoming a fully paperless society continues with this important electronic seal initiative from DESC. Smart Dubai is leading the charge for the emirate to become the world’s smartest and happiest city, with the drive towards becoming paperless being a primary pillar of this aim. By going paperless across every sector through the use of the latest technology, Dubai is taking centre stage for the conservation of resources, safeguarding of the environment, and the creation of digitally secure transactions. Smart Dubai is committed to striving towards making use of paper in transactions a thing of the past.”
As part of a phased approach, the ‘Ethaq’ capability will initially be secured for all court user service documents, such as DIFC Courts Judgments and Orders, with a secondary implementation wave for all DIFC Courts internal and operational documentation.
In 2018, launched as an initiative under the Courts of the Future, the DIFC Courts partnered with Smart Dubai to create the world’s first Court of the Blockchain. Building on existing dispute resolution services, the alliance is exploring how to aid verification of court judgments for cross-border enforcement.
The partnership is tasked with creating a blockchain-powered future for the judiciary which will have far-reaching benefits, including streamlining the judicial process, removing document duplications, and driving greater efficiencies across the entire legal ecosystem. The new electronic seal initiative will compliment and further reinforce development of this parallel project relating to blockchain enforcement.
Technology has been central to the DIFC Courts’ operating model since starting operations in 2006. Among the many technologies pioneered to increase access to justice is the region’s first digitally integrated courtroom and re-engineered state-of-the-art e-Court Management System (CMS) in 2016.
In 2018, as part of its digital strategy, the DIFC Courts was also the first courts service in the region to launch the most globally advanced ‘paperless’ e-Bundling service, pioneering new online dispute resolution services. The secure cloud-based technology allows court documents to be uploaded from anywhere in the world, enabling judges, lawyers, and courts staff to access case information in various formats, across multiple locations, and share with numerous users, reducing the need for duplicate paper bundles.
Over the past 12 months, the DIFC Courts has introduced several initiatives aimed at alleviating costs for court users, including the suspension of all fees related to the digital e-Bundling service, with over 100,000 case pages uploaded to this system in the first eight months of 2020, ensuring paper reduction of over 600,000 pages.