Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia To Join Hague Conference On Private International Law: A Move Toward International Standards?

On July 25, 2016, the Saudi Arabian cabinet resolved to become a member state of the Hague Conference on Private International Law ("HCCH").1 Formal signature and the internal ratification is still outstanding but is expected to occur in due course. When it does, the Kingdom will become the 82nd member of the organization.

The HCCH is an intergovernmental body that promotes and administers multilateral efforts for the "progressive unification" of private international law (also referred to as international conflicts of law). Since the HCCH's inception in 1893, these efforts have led to more than 40 treaties governing cross-border issues such as the jurisdiction of courts, service of evidence and taking of evidence across borders, and the recognition and enforcement of judgments and legal proceedings in a wide range of areas—from commercial law and banking law to child protection to matters of marriage and personal status. The ultimate goal of the organization is to work toward a world in which, despite the differences between legal systems, individuals as well as companies enjoy a high degree of legal security in their cross-border relations.

Accession to HCCH's conventions is not mandatory for its members, and even non-member states are free to accede to HCCH's conventions. This movement is, however, a step forward for the Kingdom. To date, it has not acceded to any of the Hague Conventions—despite the relatively broad acceptance around the world of at least some of these conventions. If its decision to join the rolls of HCCH membership is any indication, improvements in cross-border dispute resolution and other cross-border legal topics in the Kingdom may be on the horizon. For instance:

  • Enabling foreign judicial authorities to serve process and deliver litigation-related documents to respondents domiciled in Saudi Arabia would be a notable improvement. The 1965 Hague Service Convention,2 signed by 68 states since its inception, facilitates service of process of legal documents from one state to another without the need for idiosyncratic or parochial methods or the use of diplomatic channels. The Kingdom has long taken a protective stance toward it citizens and residents in the past, so accession to this Convention would bring it in line with its trading partners.
  • Securing evidence across borders would provide a more effective dispute resolution process in the Kingdom's courts once litigation is noticed and begun. To this end, the Hague Evidence Convention of 19703 allows transmission of letters of request from courts in one signatory state (where the evidence is sought) to courts in another signatory state (where the evidence is located) without recourse to diplomatic channels. This treaty, too, has gained general acceptance around the world, with 58 current signatories. Again, while this would open up citizens of the Kingdom to requests from foreign courts, it would also allow those citizens to seek the same evidence from abroad when they litigate at home.
  • Securing the enforceability of foreign judgments against parties domiciled in the Kingdom, whenever they have contractually chosen a foreign court for litigation, would also bring about more legal certainty. While this has been an issue in the past, it appears that, following legislative reforms as well as recent court cases, at least straightforward foreign judgments relating to payment claims are now being enforced in the Kingdom without major issues. Thus, acceding to the very recent Hague Choice of Courts Convention4—which requires enforcement of choice of forum clauses and the recognition of judgments founded thereon—may be a realistic step that the Kingdom could take without significant impacts or challenges.5
  • The simplification of legalization requirements for foreign documents through an apostille procedure would also a beneficial step ahead. Saudi Arabian legal practice relies heavily on certified documents. Being able to have a designated authority in the country of origin certify documents by way of apostille for use in Saudi Arabia as provided in the Hague Apostille Convention,6 instead of having to go through Saudi consular offices, would greatly speed up or simplify the process, particularly in the areas of cross-border M&A, foreign direct investment, or immigration, just to name a few.

This decision by the Kingdom to become a member state of the HCCH signifies another promising trend—that of promoting the rule of law and the free flow of capital investment to and from its territory. Foreign companies need assurances that due process will follow them into the Kingdom, and outbound Saudi investors want to be sure that the same applies when they go abroad. The assurance of a neutral forum to adjudicate private disputes through a contractual choice of court, the assurance of serving legal process to notice the adjudication of disputes, and the ability to take evidence and thereby ensure that that adjudication is open and transparent are three bedrock principles that can be achieved through simple assent to existing multilateral treaties. These are the fundamentals of international due process, and assent to these international treaties would facilitate foreign investment in the Kingdom, and—at the same time—enable outbound Saudi investors to more easily seek redress when disputes arise. Such assent comes at little cost—these treaties merely provide private interests with private rights, and they do not (in themselves) engender the possibility of state liability.

To be sure, it is still premature to assess the practical implication of Saudi Arabia's move to join the HCCH. At the very least, the intended accession can be seen as a symbolic step demonstrating the Kingdom's willingness to consider elevating its domestic conflicts of law standards to international levels and enter into related discussions. Whether and to what extent Saudi Arabia is willing to move forward by actually acceding to HCCH's conventions is an open question. Even if the Kingdom is willing to be bound by international private law conventions, public policy issues and related exceptions and reservations are expected to continue to play a significant role in order to conserve the fundamental Shari'ah law considerations that animate the broader legal landscape of the Kingdom. It remains to be seen how Saudi Arabia will strike a balance between these two conflicting policy considerations going forward.


[1] "Cabinet Approves Kingdom becoming member of the Hague Conference," Arab News, July 26, 2016, p. 2.

[2] Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra-Judicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, Nov. 15, 1965, T.I.A.S. 6638, 658 U.N.T.S. 163.

[3] Hague Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters, Mar. 18, 1970, 23 U.S.T. 2555, T.I.A.S. 7444, 847, U.N.T.S. 231.

[4] Convention on Choice of Court Agreements, June 30, 2005, 44 I.L.M. 1294 (2005).

[5] The Kingdom has been a signatory of the UNCITRAL 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards dealing with the choice of arbitration venue and the recognition of arbitral awards since 1994, so that an agreement on similar principles for litigation proceedings would be a logical step.

[6] Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, Oct. 5, 1961, 527 U.N.T.S. 189, T.I.A.S. 10072, 20 I.L.M. 1405, 1407.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Charles T. Kotuby Jr.
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions