The legal system of Abu Dhabi is based on the British law system and heavily influenced by Islamic law, given that UAE is an Islamic country. Abu Dhabi’s civil law system also draws influences from French, Roman and Egyptian laws. The criminal laws of UAE are drawn from the Sharia law (Islamic law), though it is not strictly based only on that. In some emirates of UAE, especially in Abu Dhabi, the Sharia law is applied to all circumstances related to civil and commercial disputes, capital criminal offenses and matters of personal status. Acts of punishments for offenses conducted in Abu Dhabi include detention, fines, deportation, jail term, flogging, stoning and death penalty. These punishments are carried out based on the nature and severity of the crime committed. Common offenses and public conduct issues are handled by the Abu Dhabi Police. In other cases like commercial and family disputes, offenses are first taken to the concerned regulatory authority directly relevant to the nature of the offense, after which it is escalated to the Abu Dhabi Police and the judicial authorities of Abu Dhabi if necessary.
The political system of Abu Dhabi is a federal, presidential, absolute monarchy, as is the political system of UAE. As is the case with each emirate of UAE, Abu Dhabi reserves considerable powers, including control over mineral rights, especially oil, and other revenues. The President of UAE is Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Prime Minister of the country is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The constitution of UAE established the positions of President and Vice President and elected by the rulers of each of the emirates from within (the seven rulers comprise the Federal Supreme Council, which also has an elected chairman and a vice chairman each serving five-year terms); a Council of Ministers (cabinet), led by a prime minister (head of government); a supreme council of rulers; and a 40-member National Assembly (known as the Federal National Council), a consultative body whose members are partially appointed by the emirate rulers and partially elected; and an independent judiciary which includes the Federal Supreme Court.
The judicial system of Abu Dhabi follows the Constitution of UAE. Abu Dhabi’s judicial system is dual in nature, since there are both local and federal courts, as well as a Supreme Court based in the capital city. When cases are taken to court in Abu Dhabi, if legislative provisions don’t cover the situation described in the case, the Sharia law (Islamic law) is used to make a judgement. The main laws according to which Abu Dhabi’s judicial system functions is drawn from British, Roman, French and Egyptian laws, although the Emirati law is mainly influenced by Sharia law. The Supreme Court of the Union is regarded as the highest judicial authority in Abu Dhabi, governed by a President and up to five Judges, the latter of which are chosen as per the discretion of the President. Furthermore, there are federal courts which deal with disputes, domiciliary, transactions, and issues of that kind; as well as local courts that handle matters of rights, safety, security and general wellbeing of the public, apart from some other special circumstances.
Abu Dhabi is ruled by the Al Nahyan of Al Abu Falah Dynasty. UAE, and subsequently Abu Dhabi, was first under the guidance of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding Father of the country. Under his forty years of rule, the country was transformed from merely a conglomeration of seven emirates into a strong modern nation with one of the highest GDPs per capita in the Arab world and a state-of-the-art infrastructure and social system. As the president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed gained the trust and respect of the international community and managed to establish the Emirates as a global player among the modern industrial countries. As ruler of the Emirati people, he maintained the traditional role of a father-figure to his people, approachable to every citizen to discuss not only the intricacies of state policies but any personal concerns that were brought to him.
Since Sheikh Zayed’s demise in 2004, the Presidency was taken over by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, his eldest son. Sheikh Khalifa is also the Emir (Ruler) of Abu Dhabi and the Supreme Commander of the Union Defence Force. Following the principles of leadership laid down by his father, Sheikh Khalifa maintains close links with the Emirati people and strongly promotes solidarity between the Arab states. His focus on the development of the country’s citizens is reflected in the UAE’s continuous programmes to create economic diversification and sustainability, as well as numerous aid initiatives. He has extensive experience in running the Emirate of Abu Dhabi’s affairs as he headed its local cabinet and its Department of Defence.
The position of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi is undertaken by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council. Sheikh Mohamed is the younger brother of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He has played an active part in the development of Abu Dhabi Emirate through more than three decades of rapid economical and social change. Long before his appointment as Crown Prince, he has been known as the driving force behind initiatives to ensure and strengthen Abu Dhabi’s security, sustainability, and economic diversification.