Bringing a claim for enforcement

Limitation periods

What is the limitation period for enforcement of a foreign judgment? When does it commence to run? In what circumstances would the enforcing court consider the statute of limitations of the foreign jurisdiction?

There are no specific provisions in the Civil and Commercial Procedures Act (CCPA) regarding the limitation periods for enforcement of a foreign judgment.

Under Bahraini law, all civil claims are subject to the general statute of limitations, which prescribes a general limitation period of 15 years (from the date the cause of action arose) unless the law provides for another period. There are shorter limitation periods applicable that vary depending on the nature of the claim.

Any judgment being enforced in Bahrain must be enforceable in accordance with the laws of its originating country or courts.

Types of enforceable order

Which remedies ordered by a foreign court are enforceable in your jurisdiction?

All judgments must be final to be recognised and enforced by the Bahraini courts. Provided that a certificate of final judgment or enforceability can be obtained from the country in which the judgment was obtained, default and summary judgments can also be recognised and enforced in Bahrain.

Enforcement of an interim judgment will be difficult to enforce in Bahrain as it would not be deemed ‘final’ for the purposes of article 252 of the CCPA (see below).

As to the remedies ordered in a foreign judgment, provided that these do not constitute a breach of public order or policy in Bahrain, there is no restriction on the type of remedy that the Bahrain courts can enforce.

Once recognised, as per article 256 of the CCPA, a judge of the Execution Court may issue orders and decisions in respect of the following matters:

  • placement of attachment on the property of a convicted party or lifting of such attachment;
  • sale of property that is under attachment;
  • imprisonment of a convicted party;
  • payment of amounts collected from the convicted party to the litigant in whose favour the judgment is issued or surrender of the disputed items to the latter party;
  • precautionary or provisional measures such as freezing orders; or
  • authorising the use of force whenever required and seeking the assistance of the police, if necessary.
Competent courts

Must cases seeking enforcement of foreign judgments be brought in a particular court?

Applications for recognition of foreign judgments and enforcement orders are made to the High Court. Recognised judgments or enforcement orders are then enforced, together with local court judgments, by the Court of Execution.

Under article 244 of the CCPA: ‘The Courts of Execution shall have competence to execute judgments and decisions made by the Civil Courts in their various kinds and degrees. Execution shall take place under the supervision and control of the Judge of the Court of Execution unless the law determines otherwise.’

This applies to foreign judgments being enforced under any applicable treaty or agreement, foreign judgments that have been recognised by the Bahrain courts and foreign judgments confirmed by the Bahraini courts following them being heard as a fresh case.

Separation of recognition and enforcement

To what extent is the process for obtaining judicial recognition of a foreign judgment separate from the process for enforcement?

The recognition procedure is started by application to the foreign judgment before the Bahraini High Civil Court, requesting that such judgment is recognised, paying the prescribed court fees and requesting an enforcement order.

Once recognised, enforcement of the judgment is then undertaken by the Bahraini Court of Execution.  Domestic authorities must execute the foreign judgments as issued (ie, not in-part) provided that they do not constitute a breach of public policy.

Enforcement and pitfalls

Enforcement process

Once a foreign judgment is recognised, what is the process for enforcing it in your jurisdiction?

Enforcement of final judgments in Bahrain is carried out predominantly by the Execution Court. As with any jurisdiction, the length of time it takes for a judgment to be settled is almost entirely reliant on the availability of the debtor’s assets.

The Bahrain Execution Court is efficient and dependable; with systems in place for timely recovery should assets be available.

The swiftest recovery option is, of course, liquid assets held by the banks in Bahrain. The Execution Court requests the debtor’s cash asset position from the Central Bank of Bahrain and, should there be monies held, the Execution Court will issue an order that an amount up to the value of the judgment be frozen and transferred to the court account. In these circumstances, enforcement can take as little as eight weeks.

If, however, there are no liquid assets available, and property is required to be seized and auctioned, or judicial receivers appointed to manage property (for example, in the case of a business or rental property), the time period for enforcement can extend considerably. There is, of course, no fixed amount of time for recovery in these circumstances and they are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

The Execution Court fees are governed by Legislative Decree No. (3) of 1972 (as amended) (the Judicial Fees Law). In accordance with this legislation, the Execution Court charges a fee per enforcement order – this means that each application for a freeze or a seizure of assets is charged separately in accordance with the value of the claim.

The length of time it takes for a judgment to be settled is almost entirely reliant on the availability of the debtor’s assets and the costs are subject to the Judicial Fees Law on an application basis.

Pitfalls

What are the most common pitfalls in seeking recognition or enforcement of a foreign judgment in your jurisdiction?

Parties seeking to enforce foreign judgments in Bahrain should be aware of the following:

  • parties cannot undertake this either themselves or using their foreign jurisdiction lawyers as there is no right of audience for non-Bahrain qualified lawyers in the Bahrain courts relevant to recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. Bahraini counsel will need to be engaged to file proceedings and appear at court;
  • all original documents will need to be legalised or apostilled (depending on whether the originating country is a party to the Apostille Convention); and
  • all documents will need to be translated into Arabic by a court-certified translator.