Dubai’s Courts of Space launches an international Working Group
Following the launch of the Courts of Space initiative in February 2021, the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts and the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) announced the formation of an international Working Group.
Consisting of public and private sector bodies and experts, the Working Group will be tasked with exploring space-related legal innovations and providing an outlook on potential outcomes of scenarios revolving around space-related disputes.
The launch of the 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. In recent weeks, the UAE has also doubled the size of its astronaut corps with the selection of two new astronauts, including the first woman, who will train at NASA, starting later in 2021.
Representatives for the inaugural Working Group include:
- Amna Al Owais, chief registrar and working group leader, DIFC Courts
- Patrick Noack, executive director, Future, Foresight and Imagination, Dubai Future Foundation
- Naser Al Rashedi, director of space policies and regulations, UAE Space Agency
- Angeliki Kapoglou, directorate of human spaceflight and robotic exploration, European Space Agency
- Diane Howard, chief counsel for space commerce, US Department of Commerce
- Mike Carey, founder and chief strategy officer, Atlas Space Operations
- Jessy Kate Schingler, director, policy & governance, Open Lunar Foundation
- Donald Moore, managing partner, US Legal Advisors PLLC
- Mitch Hunter-Scullion, CEO & founder, Asteroid Mining Corporation Limited
- Daniel Katz, head of business affairs, Space Cargo Unlimited
- Romain Loubeyre, managing director, ATOM
- Justine Kasznica, attorney at law, Babst Calland
- Mike Gold, executive vice president civil space and external affairs, Redwire Space
- Professor Stephan Hobe, director of the Institute of Air and Space Law & director at Law Centre of European Integration Cooperation, University of Cologne
- Professor Dr. Mahulena Hofmann, SES Chair in Space, SatCom and media & director of the Master in Space, Communication and Media Law, Faculty of Law, Economics and Finance, University of Luxembourg
- Héloïse Vertadier, breaking ground lunar resource trust project coordinator, Open Lunar Foundation
- Ayesha Bin Kalban, deputy registrar, DIFC Courts.
The Working Group will also have observers from The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA):
- Michael Newman (Observer), policy and legal affairs section, The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)
- Yukiko Okumura (Observer), associate space officer, The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)
- Ian Freeman (Observer), associate programme officer (External Relations), The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).
The Courts of Space initiative will have two further main objectives. Following the formation of the Working Group, further exploration will follow with the creation of a Space Dispute Guide, encompassing a set of guidelines to support such space-related disputes. A third, parallel objective, will involve the training of judges to become space-related dispute experts after having received courses on space regulations by international bodies and regional agencies.
Zaki Azmi, chief justice, DIFC Courts, said, “The formation of this Working Group will develop thought leadership, assist with formulating training, and the development of guides and of best practices. While space law is nothing new, an important next step will be for the Courts of Space initiative to develop and establish the DIFC Courts as a commercial go-to court for these matters. This is a complex and tall order, but it’s well within Dubai’s reach as the UAE develops its own spacefaring ambitions and becomes one of very few countries on this planet to have reached Mars.”
His Excellency Khalfan Belhoul, chief executive officer (CEO), Dubai Future Foundation, said, “The establishment of the Working Group demonstrates our joint commitment to supporting Dubai’s pioneering role in space exploration and development of related sectors of the future, such as the Courts of Space and space law. At the Foundation, we look forward to providing scenarios and foresight to assist legal professionals in addressing space-related matters.”
Amna Al Owais, chief registrar, DIFC Courts, said, “For the time being, the Working Group will discuss more current space dispute issues such as equipment failures, space cargo disputes, or even failure to deliver components on time. It might include substandard materials or design faults. More dynamically, space courts resolution might be required as satellites collide or impact a spacecraft. At the same time, we will need to wear our sci-fi hats, imagine, and develop futuristic scenarios to better understand the kinds of cases that might emerge in this relatively novel environment. For example, lunar exploration and space resources activity are likely to become more concentrated in the coming years, as well as space tourism and exploration. Space courts would be called upon to adjudicate on responsibility, damages, and liabilities, as is the case with any commercial dispute.”