UAE launches global Courts of Space for out-of-this-world disputes

UAE aims to get ahead of what it hopes will be a raft of new litigation as commercial activity in the celestial realm grows

The United Arab Emirates announced the creation of the global Courts of Space – a legal body, designed to settle commercial disputes and violations of bi- and multilateral space-related treaties.

UAE is staking its claim to the emerging market of space-based lawsuits, aiming to get ahead of what it hopes will be a raft of new litigation as commercial activity in the celestial realm grows.

New court was launched under the auspices of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) – an independent arbitration center, modeled after British common law and that already serves as a venue for international corporations to settle their differences.

The perceived need for a private-sector space court has grown arm in arm with the commercialization of the extra planetary space. While governments and their space agencies are already subject to treaties, resolutions, and international conventions on what they can and cannot do outside the Earth’s atmosphere, commercial entities – like Amazon and SpaceX – are staking their claims to their own piece of the heavenly pie.

“The Courts of Space is a global initiative that will operate in parallel, helping to build a new judicial support network to serve the stringent commercial demands of international space exploration in the 21st century,” Chief Justice for the DIFC Zaki Azmi said today. The United Arab Emirates became the first Middle Eastern country to issue a space law last year, laying the foundation for future commercial space activities.

Dubai has been working steadily to make its mark in outer space, sending its first astronaut into space in 2019 and following that up with a probe named ‘Hope’ last year. If its journey is successful, the probe will be the first Arab probe to explore Mars, though it will remain in orbit monitoring the red planet’s atmosphere rather than attempt to land.

‘Hope’ is set to arrive in Martian orbit this month and will spend a year observing climate change, atmospheric conditions, and other airborne phenomena for one Martian year (about two years on Earth).

The UAE was one of eight countries to sign the Artemis Accords, a pact drawn up to set “reasonable boundaries” for “civil exploration and use of the Moon, Mars, comets, and asteroids for peaceful purposes.” Russia and China were left off the agreement.

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