Bahrain has recently passed Law No. 9/2015 promulgating a standalone arbitration law (the "Law"), which significantly changes its arbitration regime. The Law is applicable to locally seated arbitrations, and, if the parties agree, foreign seated ones as well.
The main feature of the Law is the incorporation of the well-known and tested UNCITRAL Model Law. It also provides that:
- the Bahraini High Court is entrusted with considering and determining all arbitration related applications, including applications to enforce or set aside arbitral awards;
- the legal representatives of the parties do not have to be licensed and/or registered with the Bahraini authorities for "international commercial arbitration[s]" held in Bahrain. This permits foreign investors to retain their preferred legal counsel (whether local or international); and
- arbitrators will be immune from any liability (save for instances of bad faith or gross mistake) arising out of actions and decisions taken in the conduct of the arbitral proceedings.
The Law, which is in line with international best practices, brings predictability in arbitral procedures and certainty in enforcement of awards in Bahrain. The enactment of the Law will likely result in an increase in the number of parties opting for Bahrain as a seat for their arbitrations in the GCC.