Bahrain has taken significant steps towards globalization by allowing languages other than Arabic in litigation courts—the recent issuance of Resolution No. (28) of 2023 outlines the mechanism and scope of application for the use of non-Arabic languages before the courts and the Bahrain Chamber for Dispute Resolution (“BCDR”). Historically, Arabic has been the sole language used in litigation proceedings in Bahraini courts, but this new development signals a shift towards more inclusive and internationally friendly legal practices, particularly with regard to the use of English. Bahrain aims to be the leading hub in the region for dispute resolution.
Until recently, English has been used sparingly in Bahraini courts, primarily in cases involving international parties or contracts. However, the use of English has now been expanded to include domestic litigation in the BCDR. The BCDR is a specialized court that has the jurisdiction to hear cases that fit within the criteria set by law. BCDR court has two different mandates: arbitration and litigation.
Overview of Resolution No. (28) of 2023 (“Resolution”)
In accordance with Article (1), English may be used if the underlying contract is written in English and the dispute falls under the jurisdiction of the BCDR Chamber. The parties must be financial institutions licensed by the Central Bank of Bahrain, commercial companies licensed under the Commercial Companies Law, or engaged in international trade.
Article (2) permits the use of English before the courts in certain circumstances. Specifically, English may be used if the language of arbitration is English, and the dispute involves a contract valued over 500,000 BHD (Five Hundred Thousand Bahraini Dinars). This applies when the courts are requested to appoint or decide on the challenge of an arbitrator, adopt interim measures, or enforce or annul an award with a value exceeding 500,000 BHD (Five Hundred Thousand Bahraini Dinars).
As per Article (3) Allows for the parties to agree in writing to use English as the language of the proceedings before filing a case, provided the contract is written in a language other than Arabic and the claim exceeds 500,000 BHD (Five Hundred Thousand Bahraini Dinars).
Article (4) requires the disputing parties to provide the court with a certified translation of all documents related to the dispute if the documents are written in a language other than English. The court must hear the statements of parties or witnesses who do not speak English through an interpreter who has sworn to provide an accurate and truthful interpretation or has made an official statement to effect.
Article (5) specifies the provisions of the preceding Articles shall apply to anyone who joins or is joined to the case and incidental requests, counterclaims, and claims related to the original claim.
Article (6) states if judgments and orders are issued in English, challenges to them shall be heard in the same language at all levels.
The ability to conduct litigation in English is a significant development in Bahraini law. It not only provides a more accessible forum for foreign participants, but it also expands the pool of lawyers who can appear before the courts. This development aligns with Bahrain’s efforts to modernize its legal system and attract foreign investment.
In conclusion, using English in Bahraini litigation is a step towards modernizing the Bahraini legal system and making it more accessible to foreign participants. While challenges may be associated with using English, proper planning and preparation can overcome these challenges. The appointment of new judicial deputies and judges with a strong command of English is a positive development, and their expertise will ensure English-language litigation is conducted effectively and efficiently in Bahraini courts. Overall, the use of English in Bahraini litigation is a welcomed development that is expected to impact the administration of justice in the country positively.