Dispute resolution in Bahrain:

The Bahrain Court System

The civil courts in Bahrain are divided into three main venues: the High Civil Courts, the Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation. Cases are heard in Arabic and only Bahraini nationals may be licensed to act as advocates and consequently have rights of audience before the Bahraini courts.

Lawyers in Bahrain are regulated by the Ministry of Justice under the Legal Practice Law.

The Bahrain Chamber of Dispute Resolution (BCDR-AAA)

The BCDR-AAA is a collaboration between the Bahrain government and the American Arbitrators’ Association. The BCDR offers both traditional mediation and arbitration services, as well as acting as a court of first instance (replacing, in effect, the High Civil Courts) where certain criteria have been satisfied in relation to the quantum of the claim and the identity of the parties and/or the location of the commercial obligations in dispute.

To fall within the jurisdiction of the BCDR-AAA, the claim value must exceed BHD 500,000 (approximately USD$ 1.3 million) and:

  • At least one of the parties to the dispute must be non-Bahraini or licensed by the Central Bank of Bahrain;
  • A substantial part of the commercial obligations which must be performed are outside of Bahrain; or
  • The location most closely connected with the dispute must be outside of Bahrain.

The BCDR-AAA applies statutory arbitration to these claims: in essence this means that a panel of 3 members, usually comprising of two judges from the High Courts and an expert in the field of the dispute will sit and adjudicate the case.

The BCDR-AAA aims to provide an expedited dispute resolution procedure, and whilst it is far quicker than the High Civil Courts, the filing fees for cases remain high and the proceedings are, as with the other Courts, heard in Arabic.

Arbitrations and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provisions

Bahrain has two main Arbitration Centres: the BCDR-AAA and the GCC Arbitration Centre.

Bahrain is a signatory to the New York Convention and, as such, an award made in another signatory State of the Convention is enforceable in Bahrain without re-examination of the merits (provided that the conditions of the New York Convention are met).

The court must receive an original or certified copy of the award and the arbitration agreement, accompanied by Arabic translations where necessary.