International arbitration and the rule of law in Mauritius

In the 50 years’ history of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), it is the first time that ICCA has chosen an African country to host its congress. Mauritius will host the ICCA congress between 8 and 11 May this year. Eminent speakers from around the world will be discussing topics around the Congress’ theme “International arbitration and the rule of law: contribution and conformity”.

On Wednesday the 20th of January 2016, the Mauritius Bar Association hosted ICCA Mauritius 2016 Pre-Congress Roadshow at the seat of the Bar Council. The conference began with a very warm welcome from both Mrs Lise Bosman (Executive Director, ICCA) and Ms Ndanga Kamau (Registrar, LCIA-MIAC). The Honourable Chief Justice delivered the keynote address at the event which was attended by members of the Bar, including several lawyers from Juristconsult Chambers. The Honourable Ravi Yerrigadoo, Attorney-General of Mauritius, then addressed the topic of Mauritius being a meaningful actor in international commercial arbitration. He reiterated that by setting up the LCIA-MIAC in Mauritius, the government firmly believes in Mauritius’s ability to enhance the progress of arbitration.

The Honourable Chief Justice Kheshore Parsad Matadeen spoke about how just over a year ago, at the Mauritius International Arbitration Conference in December 2014, he talked about his quest that Mauritius becomes a centre of excellence in international arbitration. At the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) 2016 Pre-Congress Roadshow, three months away from the 23rd ICCA Congress, the Chief Justice expressed his belief that this Congress will be a “transformative event” for our jurisdiction and other jurisdiction in the region in the field of International Arbitration Law.

The Congress which will be held on the Africa soil for the first time in ICCA’s more than fifty-year history, is an event that is the highlight of the worldwide international arbitration calendar. It will demonstrate, His Lordship mentioned, that Mauritius is ready to take its rightful place as a centre of excellence for international arbitration. To show the commitment of the judiciary to support arbitration, the attendees were informed that all the 20 Judges of the Supreme Court and 15 magistrates will be attending ICCA Congress. There will be no sittings at the Supreme Court on the days of Congress.

The Honourable Chief Justice stood on the principle that the rule of law is at the heart of international arbitration. They are intrinsically linked since international arbitration must be governed by a system of clear and predictable laws, which are fair and applied equally to all parties, to become an effective system of dispute resolution between parties.

The Chief Justice placed emphasis on the role of the Judiciary which is critical and continuous in the development of international arbitration. According to him, the Judiciary shapes the international arbitration law which defines the parameters of judicial involvement in the international arbitration process. Also, it has a role in ensuring that the procedure to access the Courts by parties involved in arbitration is clear and does not lead to undue delay. The Honourable Chief Justice, however, emphasised that the responsibility for the development of international arbitration in Mauritius does not fall to the Judiciary. It falls to all law practitioners who stand most to benefit from it.

In his concluding remarks, the Chief Justice emphasised that the Judiciary and the law practitioners must work together to become the custodians of the International Arbitration Act and to ensure that, once the curtain comes down on the 23rd ICCA Congress, international arbitration in Mauritius continues to develop.

At Juristconsult Chambers, we are looking forward to attending the forthcoming ICCA Congress and sharing our experience of international arbitration with international arbitration lawyers who will be attending the event.

By Khemila Narraidoo – Barrister-at-law