Author: Abdullah Ishnaneh and Bassel Boutros
A criminal complaint takes precedence over a civil claim or “Le criminel tient le civil en l’état”, is a legal principle with origins in the French Penal Procedures Law, which is commonly applicable in most countries following a civil law system.
This principle aims to stay civil proceedings until a final and enforceable judgment is issued by the competent penal court, if the dispute is related to the same parties and same subject matter, in order to prevent any potential contradiction between civil and penal judgments.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) follows a civil law system with the exception of two Free Zones; the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) who follow a common law system within their jurisdiction, in relation to civil and commercial matters.
The priority of a criminal claim over a civil claim has become more flexible in France following several amendments to the Criminal Procedures Law, which is not the case in UAE.
Under Federal Law No. 35/1992 concerning the Criminal Procedural Law where a civil claim is brought before the civil court, it must be stayed until a decisive judgment is rendered in the criminal action filed prior or during the examination of the civil case.