On November 6, 1996, by Royal Decree 101/96, the Sultan established the current Constitution of the Sultanate of Oman, known as the “White Book” in the form of a basic law. The Constitution provides that Oman is an Islamic State and that Islamic Shar’ia Law forms the basis of the legislative enactments of the Sultanate. Legislative power resides with the Sultan, and the Oman Council is an advisory body. Notwithstanding the Islamic sources of Omani law, over the past twenty years, a large body of commercial statutes, largely drawn from French and Egyptian statutes, have been enacted.Civil and criminal legal jurisdiction is exercised by the Shar’ia Courts. Appointments of judges, or kadis, to these courts are made by the Sultan. Appeals are made to the Shar’ia Chief Court in Muscat, and subsequent appeals are made directly to the Sultan who determines matters brought before him in accordance with his own notions of justice. Oman belongs to the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The country's Commercial Court handles most tax and labor cases and the government is insisting that foreign suppliers accept this court for arbitration.
Royal Decree 47/97, which went into effect in 1997, is Oman’s first law governing arbitration. The new law regulates any arbitration conducted in Oman or abroad if the parties expressly agree that this law should govern. Under the new law, parties may agree upon a procedure for the resolution of disputes between them. The Commercial Court will only intervene if the applicant party shows good grounds for intervention. Although the law preserves the rights of parties to agree on procedural maters, in the absence of agreement, the law imposes certain rules. In addition, proceedings must be held in Arabic. Enforcement of the arbitration judgment is vested with the Commercial Court, and, although arbitration judgements are not subject to appeal, an application can be made to the Court to nullify judgements.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)