This country-specific Q&A provides an overview of International Arbitration laws and regulations applicable in Oman.
What legislation applies to arbitration in your country? Are there any mandatory laws?
The Oman Arbitration Act, which is based on the UNCITRAL Model Law, is codified in Sultani Decree No. 47 of 1997 and amended by Sultani Decree No. 3 of 2007.
Is your country a signatory to the New York Convention? Are there any reservations to the general obligations of the Convention?
Yes, Oman is a signatory to the New York Convention, which is ratified by Sultani Decree No. 36 of 1998 without reservations to the general obligations under the Convention.
What other arbitration-related treaties and conventions is your country a party to?
Oman is also a member of the World Trade Organisation and has entered into 84 bilateral investment treaties.
Is the law governing international arbitration in your country based on the UNCITRAL Model Law? Are there significant differences between the two?
Yes, the Oman Arbitration Act is broadly based on the UNCITRAL Model Law. Under the Oman Arbitration Act, there is a clear timeframe in which arbitral awards must be issued. Namely, the award must be issued within twelve months from the commencement of arbitration, unless agreed otherwise between the parties or the court orders an additional period upon the request of one of the parties. The arbitral tribunal may also exercise its right to extend this period by six months. Another deviation is that the arbitral tribunal may not consist of an even number of arbitrators.
Are there any impending plans to reform the arbitration laws in your country?
Not at this time.
What arbitral institutions (if any) exist in your country? When were their rules last amended? Are any amendments being considered?
The Oman Commercial Arbitration Centre (“OCAC”) was established in 2018 by Sultani Decree No. 26 of 2018 and its arbitration rules were issued in 2020 by OCACDecision No. 8 of 2020.
Is there a specialist arbitration court in your country?
What are the validity requirements for an arbitration agreement under the laws of your country?
The agreement to arbitrate must be in writing, signed and contain a clear reference to refer any dispute arising from the legal relationship to arbitration. Additionally, the parties must have the legal capacity to contract.
Are arbitration clauses considered separable from the main contract?
Do the courts of your country apply a validation principle under which an arbitration agreement should be considered valid and enforceable if it would be so considered under at least one of the national laws potentially applicable to it?
Is there anything particular to note in your jurisdiction with regard to multi-party or multi-contract arbitration?
While the Oman courts (and the Oman Arbitration Act) recognize the incorporation of arbitration clauses by reference, there is a high threshold for proving such. Accordingly, any incorporation by reference shall be clear and unequivocal. Additionally, there is a high threshold for joinder, so if there are multiple contracts with various stakeholders (for example, employer-contractor and contractor-subcontractor), both contracts must make reference to the other to show a clear intention of the parties to be joined in disputes which touch on both contracts. It is worth noting that the OCAC rules provide a framework for joinder and consolidation where the parties have selected such rules to apply.
In what instances can third parties or non-signatories be bound by an arbitration agreement? Are there any recent court decisions on these issues?
As expressed in paragraph 11, there is a high threshold for the joining of third parties into disputes. While the third party may not be a signatory to the contract, a clear and explicit written agreement to be bound by the arbitration clause and to be joined into any dispute arising out of such contract would most likely be required. Where the parties have selected the OCAC rules, any joinders of third parties shall be in compliance with the provisions governing such.
Are any types of dispute considered non-arbitrable? Has there been any evolution in this regard in recent years?
Non-commercial disputes relating to criminal allegations or personal matters are not-arbitrable. Generally speaking, to determine the arbitrability of a dispute is to determine the legal relationship that arises out of economic activity.
Are there any recent court decisions in your country concerning the choice of law applicable to an arbitration agreement where no such law has been specified by the Parties?
How is the law applicable to the substance determined? Is there a specific set of choice of law rules in your country?
Where the parties have not agreed upon the law applicable to the subject matter of the dispute, the arbitral tribunal shall determine the applicable law based on which law it considers to be the most closely connected law with the dispute. In so deciding, the tribunal shall consider the contractual provisions and common customs.
Have the courts in your country applied the UNIDROIT or any other transnational principles as the substantive law? If so, in what circumstances have such principles been applied?
We have not come across a court judgement which has applied such, however, the court may do to where the parties have expressly agreed to such.
In your country, are there any restrictions in the appointment of arbitrators?
Under the Oman Arbitration Act, arbitral tribunals must consist of an odd number of arbitrators, otherwise, the arbitration is deemed a nullity. Additionally, the arbitrator shall not be a person who is a minor or placed under guardianship or debarred from exercising his civil rights for having been convicted in a criminal case or misdemeanour accounting to a breach of honour, trust or declared as bankrupt, unless he has been rehabilitated.
Are there any default requirements as to the selection of a tribunal?
In the event the parties fail to agree to the number of arbitrators, then the number shall be three. Where the parties have agreed for a sole arbitrator to resolve the dispute, but fail to agree on the manner in which the arbitrator is to be appointed, the arbitrator shall be appointed by the count on the application of either party. Where the parties agree that the arbitral tribunal shall consist of three arbitrators, but fail to agree on the procedure, then each party shall nominate an arbitrator and the two party-nominated arbitrators shall nominate the third arbitrator.
Can the local courts intervene in the selection of arbitrators? If so, how?
Yes, in the event the parties fail to agree on a sole arbitrator, a party fails to appoint an arbitrator or the party-appointed arbitrators fail to appoint the presiding arbitrator.
Can the appointment of an arbitrator be challenged? What are the grounds for such challenge? What is the procedure for such challenge?
Yes, an arbitrator may be challenged in the event there are circumstances giving rise to doubt as to the arbitrator’s impartiality or independence. First, an application must be submitted to the arbitral tribunal to determine the challenge. Following this, if the application id dismissed, the applicant may appeal this decision to the court. Under the OCAC rules, the executive committee of the OCAC shall decide on the challenge and the resulting decision is final and not subject to appeal.
Have there been any recent developments concerning the duty of independence and impartiality of the arbitrators
Have there been any recent decisions in your concerning arbitrators’ duties of disclosure, e.g., similar to the UK Supreme Court Judgment in Halliburton v Chubb?
What happens in the case of a truncated tribunal? Is the tribunal able to continue with the proceedings?
No. As stated above, it is not permissible to have an even number of arbitrators under the Oman Arbitration Act.
Are arbitrators immune from liability?
No, there is no statutory immunity for arbitrators under Oman law.
Is the principle of competence-competence recognized in your country?
What is the approach of local courts towards a party commencing litigation in apparent breach of an arbitration agreement?
The Oman courts will uphold the parties’ agreement to arbitrate, unless the other party can show a waiver to the agreement has been made.
How are arbitral proceedings commenced in your country? Are there any key provisions under the arbitration laws relating to limitation periods or time bars of which the parties should be aware?
The arbitral proceedings are commended from the date on which the respondent receives the request for arbitration from the claimant. The limitation periods will depend on the subject matter of the dispute and there are no limitation periods defined under the Oman Arbitration Act. Rather, such periods are defined in the substantive laws of Oman (or other states where the parties have agreed that another law other than Oman governs the dispute). Where the parties agree to the OCAC rules, an arbitral proceeding shall be deemed to be commenced on the date of receipt by the registrar of the OCAC of the complete request for arbitration from the claimant.
In what circumstances is it possible for a state or state entity to invoke state immunity in connection with the commencement of arbitration proceedings?
Under Oman law, where state entities have the power to enter into commercial transactions, parties may bring a dispute against such as if it were a private party in relation to their commercial transactions. Furthermore, parties may bring disputes under the bilateral investment treaties to which Oman is a signatory.
What happens when a respondent fails to participate in the arbitration? Can the local courts compel participation?
The Oman Arbitration Act permits the proceedings to proceed even if the respondent fails to participate and any ensuing award will be upheld so long as the respondent was properly notified of the dispute and was given fair opportunity to defend the claim.
Can third parties voluntarily join arbitration proceedings? If all parties agree to the intervention, is the tribunal bound by this agreement? If all parties do not agree to the intervention, can the tribunal allow for it?
The Oman Arbitration Act does not contain any express provisions regarding joinder of parties. However, if the parties all agree to join the third party to the dispute, such agreement may be upheld by the arbitral tribunal (and court as the case may be). As stated above, since there are no express provisions, the court has a high threshold for joinder and therefore, where the parties do not agree, it is unlikely the joinder of the third party would be upheld. Where the parties agree to the OCAC rules, the joinder of any third party shall be in compliance with the provisions governing such.
Can local courts order third parties to participate in arbitration proceedings in your country?
What interim measures are available? Will local courts issue interim measures pending the constitution of the tribunal?
The Oman courts have the jurisdiction to order temporary or precautionary measures either pending or after the constitution of the arbitral tribunal. These measures may include the freezing of assets and other injunctive relief.
Are anti-suit and/or anti-arbitration injunctions available and enforceable in your country?
Yes, a party may request for an anti-suit or anti-arbitration injunction which must be complied with if ordered.
Are there particular rules governing evidentiary matters in arbitration? Will the local courts in your jurisdiction play any role in the obtaining of evidence? Can local courts compel witnesses to participate in arbitration proceedings?
No. While a party may request injunctive relief to obtain evidence or fine a witness that fails to appear or give evidence, the fine itself would be no more than OMR 5 to OMR 20.
What ethical codes and other professional standards, if any, apply to counsel and arbitrators conducting proceedings in your country?
Local counsel must comply with the Advocacy Law (Sultani Decree No. 108 of 1996); however, it does not specifically apply to counsel from other jurisdictions.
In your country, are there any rules with respect to the confidentiality of arbitration proceedings?
The Oman Arbitration Act does not specifically stipulate that arbitration is confidential; however, it does state that arbitration awards shall not be published without the parties’ consent. However, in practice, arbitration proceedings are considered confidential. Similarly, the OCAC rules contain provisions on confidentiality.
Are there any recent decisions in your country regarding the use of evidence acquired illegally in arbitration proceedings (e.g. ‘hacked evidence’ obtained through unauthorized access to an electronic system)?
How are the costs of arbitration proceedings estimated and allocated?
This will be determined by the arbitral tribunal on a case by case basis.
Can pre- and post-award interest be included on the principal claim and costs incurred?
For disputes governed by Oman law, yes. The current interest rate set by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion for commercial debts is set at 6%. There is no restriction under the Oman Arbitration Act for the awarding of interest, so long as it is not prohibited under the contract or relevant substantive law.
What legal requirements are there in your country for the recognition and enforcement of an award? Is there a requirement that the award be reasoned, i.e. substantiated and motivated?
Foreign arbitral awards are enforced in line with the Civil Procedure Law (Sultani Decree No. 29 of 2002), whereas arbitrations seated in Oman are enforced in line with the Oman Arbitration Act. In general, domestic (Oman seated) arbitration awards must not be contrary to public policy in Oman, must not be in conflict with a decision made by the courts in Oman and must have been duly served on the unsuccessful party. For foreign arbitral awards, the award must be rendered by a competent tribunal and not issued by fraudulent means, the parties must have been notified of the arbitration and were properly represented, the award is not contrary to Oman law or public policy and does not contradict a previous decision of the courts in Oman and the country in which the award is rendered would enforce an arbitral award issued in Oman (for example, they are a signatory to the New York Convention).
For arbitral awards issued under the Oman Arbitration Act, there is a requirement that such be a reasoned award, unless the parties agree otherwise or the applicable law doesn’t require such. For foreign arbitral awards, the courts may require the applicant to prove that, as a matter of fact, the arbitration law governing the arbitration does not require a reasoned award.
What is the estimated timeframe for the recognition and enforcement of an award? May a party bring a motion for the recognition and enforcement of an award on an ex parte basis?
The timeframe will depend on whether any objections to the enforcement of the arbitral award are made. Enforcement proceedings may proceed on an ex parte basis.
Does the arbitration law of your country provide a different standard of review for recognition and enforcement of a foreign award compared with a domestic award?
Yes, please refer to the response to question 40.
Does the law impose limits on the available remedies? Are some remedies not enforceable by the local courts
Can arbitration awards be appealed or challenged in local courts? What are the grounds and procedure?
Yes, an objection to enforcement may be made if on any of the grounds mentioned in response to question 40 are not adhered to.
Can the parties waive any rights of appeal or challenge to an award by agreement before the dispute arises (such as in the arbitration clause)?
To what extent might a state or state entity successfully raise a defence of state or sovereign immunity at the enforcement stage?
State entities may be parties to disputes in which they have entered into commercial transactions and may not raise a defence of immunity. Similarly, where a dispute is raised under a bilateral investment treaty, immunity is not a defence which may be used.
In what instances can third parties or non-signatories be bound by an award? To what extent might a third party challenge the recognition of an award?
As discussed above, the Oman courts have a high threshold for binding third parties. It would need to be shown that the third party has expressly indicated its intention to be bound. Similarly, third parties would not have standing to challenge the recognition of the award unless contractual privity can be shown.
Have there been any recent court decisions in your jurisdiction considering third party funding in connection with arbitration proceedings?
Is emergency arbitrator relief available in your country? Are decisions made by emergency arbitrators readily enforceable?
Not under the Oman Arbitration Act, however, the arbitral rules selected by the parties may allow for such. For example, the OCAC rules contain provisions related to appointment of an emergency arbitrator. We have yet to see an emergency arbitral award in Oman.
Are there arbitral laws or arbitration institutional rules in your country providing for simplified or expedited procedures for claims under a certain value? Are they often used?
Not under the Oman Arbitration Act or OCAC rules.
Is diversity in the choice of arbitrators and counsel (e.g. gender, age, origin) actively promoted in your country? If so, how?
There are no specific promotions taking place at this time; however, in general the market tends to favour and promote diversity.
Have there been any recent court decisions in your country considering the setting aside of an award that has been enforced in another jurisdiction or vice versa?
Have there been any recent court decisions in your country considering the issue of corruption? What standard do local courts apply for proving of corruption? Which party bears the burden of proving corruption?
Have there been any recent court decisions in your country considering the judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Slovak Republic v Achmea BV (Case C-284/16), Republic of Moldava v Komstroy LLC (Case C-741/19) and Republiken Polen v PL Holdings Sarl (Case C-109/20) with respect to intra-European investor-state arbitration? Are there any pending decisions?
Have there are been any recent decisions in your country considering the General Court of the European Union’s decision Micula & Ors (Joined Cases T-624/15, T-694/15 and T-694.15), ECLI:EU:T:2019:423, dated 18 June 2019? Are there any pending decisions?
What measures, if any, have arbitral institutions in your country taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
The OCAC was established in 2018 with its rules being issued in 2020. Therefore, it did not take any specific measures in relation to the pandemic.
Have arbitral institutions in your country implemented reforms towards greater use of technology and a more cost-effective conduct of arbitrations? Have there been any recent developments regarding virtual hearings?
Following the pandemic, the restriction on using VoIP platforms was lifted, which allowed for virtual hearings and meetings to take place. However, in Oman, there is still a preference for in-person hearings.
In your country, does the insolvency of a party affect the enforceability of an arbitration agreement?
It will depend on the stage at which the party became insolvent. If the party became insolvent before or during the dispute, then to be enforceable, permission must have been obtained from the liquidator or court to bring the dispute against the party. If the party became insolvent after the issuance of the award, then the successful party must have notified the liquidator within six months of the liquidation notice of its debt. It is worth noting that debtors who have commercial debts arising from contracts are considered and ranked as unsecured creditors.
Is your country a Contracting Party to the Energy Charter Treaty? If so, has it expressed any specific views as to the current negotiations on the modernization of the Treaty?
Have there been any recent developments in your jurisdiction with regard to disputes on climate change and/or human rights?
Has your country expressed any specific views concerning the work of the UNCITRAL Working Group III on the future of ISDS?
Has your country implemented a sanctions regime (either independently, or based on EU law) with regard to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine? Does it provide carve-outs under certain circumstances (i.e., providing legal services, sitting as an arbitrator, enforcement of an award)?
Do the courts in your jurisdiction consider international economic sanctions as part of their international public policy? Have there been any recent decisions in your country considering the impact of sanctions on international arbitration proceedings?
Have arbitral institutions in your country taken any specific measures to administer arbitration proceedings involving sanctioned individuals/entities? Do their rules address the issue of sanctions?
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