China: 实务指南:国际仲裁案件中的证人会议

Last Updated: 1 October 2019
Article by Liu Meibang and Li Wei
Most Read Contributor in China, September 2019

导读

国际仲裁庭审过程中,占用最多时间的环节就是盘问证人,包括事实证人和专家证人。国际仲裁开庭时间两周以上的情况,并不少见。那么,如何提高庭审的效率呢?证人会议或许是一个有益的尝试。国际仲裁界人士也为此作出了持续的探索和努力。我们欣喜看到,英国皇家特许仲裁员学会(Chartered Institute of Arbitrators,以下简称"CIArb")于2019年4月23日发布了《国际仲裁中证人会议的指引》(Guidelines for Witness Conferencing in International Arbitration,以下简称"证人会议指引")。证人会议指引的运用效果,有待于实践中进一步观察。

引言

证人会议这一取证形式久已存在,早在2002年Wolfgang Peter就曾就证人会议发表过文章[1],探讨证人会议的实践与应用。此后,多位在国际仲裁中颇有建树的仲裁员及律师均对该制度进行过说明及探讨。近些年,证人会议越发受到欢迎,该制度不仅适用于仲裁,在多个地区的法院也被采用,这些地区包括澳大利亚法院、英格兰及威尔士法院以及新加坡法院。

一、CIArb关于证人会议的定义及制定指引的目的

在指引文件中,证人会议被简单描述为在任何取证过程中2名或多名证人向仲裁庭同时提供证据。这种证人会议可采取多种形式(可由仲裁庭主导进行,也可由仲裁代理人主导进行,甚至可由证人自己组织进行。同时,根据指引的介绍,证人会议可以适用于专家证人以及事实证人。

根据指引的说明,该指引制定发布的目的是为了协助仲裁庭、仲裁当事人及专家更加高效地进行证人会议,并尽量降低以此种形式举证失败的风险。鉴于各案情的实际情况及影响因素各不相同,是否举行证人会议及以何种形式举行证人会议将根据不同案件的具体情况进行考虑。对此深具经验的仲裁员及仲裁代理人可以把指引作为备忘录使用,而对该制度不太熟悉或从未接触的相关人员,则可以依靠指引的协助顺利地适用这一举证形式。

二、证人会议指引的主要内容

指引根据其结构共分为三个部分:事实清单(Checklist)、标准指令(Standard Directions)以及特别指令(Specific Directions)。此外,指引就这三个部分分别提供了注释,供仲裁庭及仲裁当事人参考。

1.事实清单

事实清单列举了一系列需要仲裁庭及仲裁当事人考虑的事项,并建议其根据这些事项决定证人会议的相关事项。事实清单协助仲裁庭及仲裁当事人大致确定两项内容:举行证人会议是否是一个合适的取证方式,以及如果要进行证人会议,应以何种形式进行证人会议。 事实清单被大致分为4个部分,第一部分是关于各仲裁当事人之间可能影响仲裁庭做出举行证人会议决定的事项(如是否针对特定议题存在相反的意见证据,且该证据需要被验证等),第二部分是关于同时举证的证人之间需考虑的事项(如证人之间的关系等),第三及第四部分是关于案件管理需考虑的事项(对各证人的时间分配问题等)。

2.标准指令

标准指令适用于当仲裁庭决定证人会议被包含在初始的程序令(Procedural Order)时,其为仲裁庭提供了证人会议的大致框架。当仲裁庭随后命令部分证人证据被同时质证时,标准指令提供了一系列可适用的原则。但需要注意的是,即使采用了证人会议这一形式,仲裁各方仍有可能继续进行传统的证人举证方式。 标准指令确立了证人会议的基本规则。根据该规则,仲裁庭可以在其认为合适的时候要求证人同时举证,且规定了各仲裁当事人及证人必须为会议采取的行动。但即使仲裁庭在初始的程序令中未发布标准指令,其仍可在后续仲裁过程中将标准指令包含在后续的命令中,同时可加入适用具体情况的特别指令。

3.特别指令

特别指令通常在仲裁庭和仲裁当事人决定举行证人会议时发出。该指令提供三种可供参考的程序框架,采用何种框架取决于仲裁庭和仲裁当事人确定证人会议是以仲裁员主导的形式进行,以证人自行主导的形式进行(这种形式多适用于专家证人举证的情形),还是以仲裁代理人主导的形式进行。仲裁庭可根据具体案情及证人的情况,决定适用一种或多种形式,并由此采用一种或多种程序框架,或合并采用多种程序框架。在实践中,这种特别指令多在仲裁过程中发布,当确定适用何种证人会议的事项更加明确时(各方已经交换证据且证人的具体身份已经明确)由仲裁庭发出。

三、证人会议的适用范围

1.专家证人

证人会议最初的形成就是为了方便专家证人的举证,类似英国的专家会议(expert's meeting)及共同报告(joint report)。举办证人会议的目的即是为了缩小争议事项并使仲裁庭更多关注决定性的、争议性的事项。对于技术性强的案件,针对专家证人的证人会议多用于国际仲裁。当所有专家证人在听证室针对同一问题直接向仲裁庭发表意见,而不是通过仲裁代理人以提问的方式使仲裁庭间接获取专家的意见内容,仲裁员可以更快地锁定关键争议点,由此节省更多的时间和成本。因此,针对专家证人的证人会议在目前的国际仲裁中仍是被广为接受的一种方式。

2.事实证人

事实证人的证人会议目前被仲裁庭适用的情形相较专家证人并不流行,但根据Wolfgang Peter,Michael Hwang及Clifford J Hendel在其各自的文章中的观点,事实证人的证人会议也应被广泛适用。[2]理由在于:在关于并购、建设、交钥匙工程、研究和开发、知识产权及其他基于复杂的技术事实、系统及程序并涉及大量证人的合同争议案件中,证人会议的适用非常有利于案件的审理。这些证人参与了大量的前期协商、中期合作及后期争议协商及谈判,对整个争议的过程了如指掌;且这些人基于长时间的合作及协商,对彼此有更深入的了解,对仲裁当事人争议的焦点事项也更清楚,甚至要比仲裁庭及各仲裁代理人更清楚事情的来龙去脉,这正是举行证人会议并取得成功的前提。仲裁庭可借由证人会议更快明确各方争议事项的核心,进而推动仲裁程序的进程。其次,对于仲裁员来说,在上述复杂案件中,若按照传统的单一举证流程,一方证人的举证有可能持续半年之久,待双方分别举证完毕,仲裁员可能已经遗忘了最初举证的证人的举证内容。这种举证流程既耗时,又费力,还会大量增加仲裁成本,增加仲裁当事人的负担。

四、证人会议制度的优势及需关注的问题

综上所述,证人会议的优势显而易见:首先,这种形式的举证可以更高效地接收证据,仲裁庭可在聆讯中更容易地对比各方观点,且各方证人可直接针对另一方证人证言发表意见或进行反驳;其次,可提高证据的质量,专家证人在同行面前更不愿意发表明显错误的观点;再次,同时听取各方证人的意见可以节省更多的仲裁时间及成本,仲裁庭可以一次性听取所有证人的意见,而无需在不同阶段由仲裁当事人分别提供不同的证人供仲裁庭逐一参考。

同时,不可忽视地是,并不是所有案件都适用于证人会议,例如当证人来自不同的地区,有不同的文化背景时,更注重辈分及资历的地区的证人不愿意在其前辈在场时提供意见,且这些前辈本身在听取后辈的反对意见时也更容易感觉受到侵犯。再如当证人在举证前存在很紧密的关系时,其在面对对方的质疑时,更怠于提供适宜的证据。在此情形下,若仲裁庭仍认为需要举行证人会议,则其可能需要把控整个聆讯的进行情况,主导庭审以更客观、更有效且更有效率的方式进行。

Footnotes

1 详见Wolfgang Peter, "Witness Conferencing" (2002)18 Arb Int'l 47。

2 详见Wolfgang Peter, "Witness Conferencing" (2002)18 Arb Int'l 47;Michael Hwang, "Witness Conference and Party Autonomy"; Clifford J Hendel "Witness Conferencing involving witnesses of fact: a good idea whose time has not yet come?"

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