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YEREVAN, JANUARY 25, ARMENPRESS. Among the alternative mechanisms of dispute resolution, arbitration is accepted all over the world and is very popular. In May 2023, the Arbitration and Mediation Center of Armenia was opened in Armenia, which is the first and only arbitration center in Armenia having a Board of Trustees and an Arbitration Council, comprised of internationally renowned specialists. We talked with the director of the Center, Tatevik Matinyan, about founding an arbitration center, its goals, the need to spread the arbitration culture, and other topics.

Ms. Matinya, let’s talk a little about your professional path, how long have you been in the legal field?

I started working in the legal field in the early 2000s, in parallel with my studies. I mainly worked in human rights NGOs, but one of the best schools for me in terms of gaining experience and improving my skills was the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office, where I was the coordinator of legal programs. There was a team of 18 people under my direct supervision and 3 branches. For me, working in the Assembly was particularly important, because management in the legal field has many nuances.

Of course, I also continued my legal practice during the mentioned period. After receiving the advocate license, I worked for more than 13 years both on domestic and international courts, as a result of which, I also won cases at the European Court of Human Rights, one of which was against Azerbaijan.

In 2022, I went to the University of Stanford to improve my knowledge. Sharing experience at the international level and constantly learning is of great importance in my professional development. I was also the president of the Institute of Liberal Politics, where the nature of my work was again a mix of legal and administrative responsibilities.

In May 2023, when the Arbitration and Mediation Center of Armenia was established, I was appointed the director of this foundation. The existence of such Center is a very important achievement for the legal system of Armenia and for me personally.

Let’s talk about establishing the Arbitration and Mediation Center of Armenia, AMCA.

The establishment of the Arbitration Center in Armenia was planned by the 2019-2023 strategy of judicial reforms in Armenia. In 2021, the Advisory Committee was established, in which local and international renowned and outstanding experts were involved to ensure the comprehensive application of professional approaches during the establishment of the Center. In May 2023, the first decision on the creation of the “Arbitration and Mediation Center of Armenia” foundation was signed by the founders of the Center: The Center for Legislation Development Foundation, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, and the Armenian Bar Association. The EU budget support program has made a significant contribution into the formation of the Center.

The arbitration rules of the Center are based on the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Arbitration Rules.

Ms. Matinyan, arbitration and mediation are new concepts for our society. Could you please explain in more detail what arbitration and mediation are?

If we describe it simply and briefly, they are alternative methods of dispute resolution. Arbitration is an effective tool used by individuals and organizations to resolve legal disputes outside of the traditional judicial system. Arbitration offers a faster and more flexible approach where decisions are made by impartial and specialized arbitrators. Mediation is a modern dispute resolution process where a neutral third party, the mediator, helps the parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement through discussion and negotiation. It is widely used in the settlement of family, labor and civil disputes.

The purpose of the Arbitration and Mediation Center of Armenia is to develop the culture of alternative dispute resolution in Armenia, increase the reputation of Armenia as a leading platform for alternative dispute resolution, contribute to reducing the burden on the judicial system, and also provide a more favorable investment environment. The latter is very important, so I will specifically address it. When an individual or an organization from abroad wants to understand how favorable an environment in Armenia is for investments, one of the first things they pay attention to is the existence of an alternative dispute resolution institution. Due to this, the investment rating of the country, so to speak, increases.  

We have international arbitrators by country, by language, by specialization. For example, people living in France or Italy who have a dispute can apply to AMCA, even without being physically present, choose an arbitrator, the law applicable to their dispute, and resolve the dispute. The solution for applying for remote arbitration is quite popular in other countries, and we have already taken the first steps, we are going to implement appropriate technological solutions to create the platform and organize this process effectively.

Why should other countries turn to Armenian arbitration, to AMCA, to resolve their dispute?

We have industry-specialized arbitrators who, being knowledgeable and deeply informed about the client’s industry, conduct arbitration and mediation in a professional and efficient manner. For example, arbitration may be conducted in commercial, construction, mining, energy, telecommunications, investment, information technology, intellectual property, financial banking, corporate, sports, labor and other disputes. The pricing policy is also essential, taking into account the presence of our highly specialized arbitrators and the costs of services, compared to other countries, are more affordable. We are flexible and can also apply the principles of remote arbitration, the parties will not be obliged to be physically present.

Arbitration is completely confidential, but must be visible and transparent in its processes. Our arbitrators are chosen based on their absolute professional and competent principles. Being trustworthy, fast, reliable and professional are the key criteria of our activity. Our goal is to make sure that even the losing party leaves the arbitration satisfied and confident that the whole process was fair.

Mediation is slightly different in nature and both parties should come out with a win-win status. Mediation is also the stage of dispute prevention. It often happens that during the arbitration, the parties understand that they want to settle. Our dispute resolution experience shows that disputes sometimes arise because the parties simply do not talk to each other about their problem.

Can you please describe the sequence of actions involved in arbitration?

In order for the parties to be able to apply for arbitration, an arbitration agreement must be concluded between them, which can be included in the contract itself or by drawing up a separate document in writing.

After submitting the case to us, the applicant must submit a request for arbitration to resolve the dispute at the Center. The arbitration proceedings are considered to have started from the moment that document is received by the Center.

The request for arbitration must include data of the parties to the dispute, present the nature and facts of the dispute, the claim, as well as other information provided by the arbitration rules of the Center. The Center sends the request for arbitration to the respondent, giving up to 30 days to submit a response.

The parties entrusting the handling of the arbitration case to the Center can choose the procedure of examining the case, either through general or expedited procedures. The cases in which the claim exceeds AMD 10 million, or the dispute is of an international nature, are examined in general procedure. Those local cases where the claim does not exceed AMD 10 million are examined through expedited procedure.

The party may submit a petition to the Center to apply an emergency measure, if due to urgent circumstances, before the formation of the Arbitration Tribunal, there is a need to apply a means of securing a claim or securing evidence. When applying to the Center, the parties can choose how many arbitrators will hear the case, giving preference to one or, for example, a three-member arbitration tribunal. In the case of a three-member Arbitration Tribunal, each party chooses one arbitrator, and the latter appoint the presiding arbitrator.

The parties may, in their discretion, agree on the venue of the arbitration and the language to be used in the arbitration. This is followed by the formation stage of the Arbitral Tribunal, when the Arbitration Council of the Center approves the arbitrators nominated by the parties or appoints them if they are not nominated.

Immediately after the formation of the Arbitration Tribunal, the Center delivers the case materials to them and ensures efficient and speedy communication between the Tribunal and the parties.

The Tribunal establishes and approves the protocol of the case investigation with the parties, as well as discusses with them the order of conducting the case by approving a procedural schedule. The Tribunal may conduct hearings, engage experts, question witnesses and perform other necessary actions to establish facts and examine evidence essential to the investigation of the case.

After the described actions have been taken, the Tribunal shall conclude the arbitration proceedings and make an award.

What is the significance of the foundation of AMCA for Armenia?

One of our goals is to contribute to the change of the legal culture and to build trust among the society so that Armenian businessmen make arbitration and mediation an integral part of their activities. On the other hand, we should contribute to increasing the level of trust and awareness towards arbitration centers. Surely, Armenia can be competitive alongside other leading countries as a country that implements independent, impartial and fair arbitration. To make Armenia a desirable platform for arbitration, we have all the prerequisites: high-quality and professional specialists and accessibility in all senses.