January 07, 2015
KLRCA Talk Series: Bias in Arbitration
With whiffs of potassium nitrate from the thunderous display of fireworks that illuminated the capital’s skyline just days before finally subsiding, KLRCA held its curtain raiser event for the year 2015 by organising a Talk Series session titled, ‘Bias In Arbitration’. Spearheading the talk was Robert Rhodes QC, an arbitrator who brought to the table extensive experience of chairing disciplinary tribunals and considerable judicial experience, extending over 30 years.
Moderating this session was Ivan Loo who heads the Construction and Engineering Practice Group of a prominent Malaysian law firm. It was an encouraging crowd that turned up despite the torrential rain outside. Robert kicked off proceedings by stating how a fair-minded and informed observer should be able to differentiate ‘auto presumption of bias’ from ‘apparent bias’. He then cited excerpts from international conventions, declarations and ordinances surrounding the importance of upholding natural justice. Examples included, ‘ United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 10)’, ‘European Convention of Human Rights (Article 6 ) and ‘Hong Kong Arbitration Ordinance (s.46)’.
The attendees were then taken through a comprehensive presentation on the views of arbitral institutions on the non-tolerance of biasness in arbitration, cases of court interventions pertaining to the matter and the importance of impartiality and independence in arbitration. Next on the agenda were examples of cases within United Kingdom’s jurisprudence. Robert took the attendees through at least 15 cases, each with different instances in which a challenge was made in view of a bias decision.
The presenter then switched the attendees’ attention to cases beyond the United Kingdom’s jurisprudence, with illustrations covering the United States of America, Sweden, Hong Kong, China and Australia. Robert went on to reiterate that impartiality should always remain as the watchword of all tribunals, including arbitrators. A question and answer session then took place with Ivan Loo taking on and moderating a flurry of question from the floor.