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Saudi Centre for Commercial Arbitration Confirms a Party’s Freedom to Choose Their Representation Before Arbitral Tribunals

September 2022
Claire Miller, Lyndon Richards and Ilham Adan

Over the last few years, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has introduced a number of legal reforms functioning to facilitate business and attract both local and foreign investments to the Nation. Arbitration is no exception, and in an effort to further support the Kingdom’s “Vision 2030” initiative, the Saudi Centre for Commercial Arbitration (‘SCCA’), in partnership with the Saudi Ministry of Justice, has helpfully provided guidance in relation to a Party’s right to its choice of representation.

The SCCA has confirmed that under both the Saudi Arbitration Law (“Law”) and the institutional arbitration rules of the SCCA, the concept of party autonomy is paramount. The Law and SCCA Rules allow parties to be represented by any legal representative regardless of place of qualification, gender, nationality or religion. This clarification is welcome and addresses past concerns that non-Saudi nationals may not act as legal representatives of a party to an arbitration in KSA or concerns that an award may be un-enforceable if a party was represented by a foreign lawyer.

The SCCA notes that Saudi legislation protects the parties’ freedom to choose any representative – including foreign legal counsel – before arbitral tribunals with no conditions to be a Saudi national, and that representation will not lead to an annulment of an award at enforcement. The SCCA clarified that ‘Saudi arbitration did not place a restriction on the choice of representatives of the parties to cases related to nationality’.

This announcement also extends to the appointment of arbitrators, confirming that under the Saudi Arbitration Law, parties can appoint an arbitrator regardless of nationality or profession, except to the extent that the arbitrator be of full legal capacity, good conduct and reputation and must hold a university degree in law or Shari’a. Notably, if the arbitral tribunal is composed of more than one arbitrator, it is sufficient that only the chairman meet this last requirement.

This announcement is aligned with international practices and as well as serving to enhance Saudi Arabia’s position as an attractive environment for commercial arbitration, further develops the reputation of the SCCA as one of the leading arbitration institutions in the Middle East.

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