The Kingdom of Bahrain has launched a new dispute resolution centre to be known as the Bahrain Centre for Dispute Resolution, in joint venture with the American Arbitration Association. The aims of the centre are to provide public and private arbitration in Bahrain for international claims as a new potential choice of forum in the Middle East. To ensure its independence from the Bahraini legal system, the BCDR has been created within an "arbitration freezone" so that awards made by a tribunal of the BCDR will be free from challenge before the Bahraini courts if the "seat" of the dispute is in another jurisdiction.

In addition, the Bahraini government has legislated to move certain high value commercial claims falling within the jurisdiction of the Bahraini courts to the BCDR for a "statutory arbitration" process, depending on the identity of the parties to the dispute. The awards made will be final and binding and deemed to be a ruling of the Bahraini courts, which follows from the majority of the judges in these cases being selected by the Supreme Judicial Council (which supervises the judiciary in Bahrain). This is a significant legal development because it imposes arbitration procedures on commercial disputes falling within the jurisdiction of the Bahraini national courts, irrespective of the intentions of the parties.

Please see the Herbert Smith dispute resolution e-bulletin for further details on the BCDR-AAA.