United States: The New Enforcement Law Of Saudi Arabia: An Additional Step Toward A Harmonized Arbitration Regime

Following on the heels of last year's reform of the arbitration regime in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a new Enforcement Law (the "new Enforcement Law") came into effect in March of this year by virtue of Royal Decree No. M/53.1 The new Enforcement Law, which replaces the relevant provisions of the 1989 Rules of Civil Procedure before the Board of Grievances, will have a particular impact on the enforcement of arbitral awards, whether domestic or international. While it is well known that arbitration is an institution that appears in Islamic law and that the legal system of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on Shari'a or Islamic law, it may come as a surprise to adepts of international arbitration that awards do not need confirmation by a qadi (or judge) in the Hanbali legal tradition (which is applied in Saudi Arabia), as this school considers that an award already has the characteristics of a court judgment.2 Nonetheless, in practice, if the opposing party is not willing to enforce the award, the confirmation by a qadi must be sought. It is against this backdrop that the new Enforcement Law was promulgated.

This new Enforcement Law contains provisions that affect all aspects of enforcement of domestic and foreign judgments as well as arbitral awards.

Prior to the new Enforcement Law, parties had to bring applications for the enforcement of foreign judgments and arbitration awards before the Board of Grievances.3 Procedure before the Board was lengthy and rigid because the Board was not created solely to hear enforcement requests but also to deal with some of the more important, commercial issues before Saudi courts. As such, the Board of Grievances would undertake a full review on the merits of each award to make sure that the award was compliant with Shari'a; parties were met with the possibility that their award would be refused enforcement due to an arbitrator's unfamiliarity with such Shari'a requirements. In addition, all relevant documents from the arbitration needed to be submitted to the Board in Arabic to allow such a review. Parties seeking the enforcement of foreign judgments or awards thus faced significant delays and were exposed to a retrial of the dispute on the merits by the Board.

The Jadawel Intl. v. Emaar Property case is a notorious example that left a bitter taste for one of the parties. In 2006, Jadawel started arbitration before a three-member tribunal seated in Saudi Arabia. It claimed damages in the amount of US$1.2 billion based on the breach by Emaar of a joint venture agreement relating to a construction project. Jadawel contended that Emaar had formed a partnership with another party in breach of the joint venture agreement. The arbitration spanned a two-year period; finally Jadawel's claim was dismissed and Jadawel was ordered to pay legal costs. However, the award was submitted to the Board of Grievances for enforcement. The Board re-examined the merits to ensure compliance with Shari'a. In its ruling, the Board of Grievances reversed the award; the damages awarded to Emaar were annulled and Emaar was ordered to pay more than US$250 million of damages to Jadawel. Such scenario is unlikely to happen under the new Enforcement Law.

The new Enforcement Law abandons the old system of enforcement proceedings before the Board of Grievances and entrusts enforcement to a relatively new jurisdiction, the Enforcement Judge.4 Several changes are worthy of mention:

  • Article 1 of the new Law defines the Enforcement Judge as "the Chairman and Judges of the Enforcement Circuit, the Enforcement Circuit Judge, or the Judge of the Single Court." This new jurisdiction was created in late 2007 to deal with all enforcement issues. Whereas procedure before the Board of Grievances was lengthy and cumbersome, procedure before a judge specialized in the enforcement of such awards and judgments aims to be more expedient.
  • While the previous regime applied only to foreign judgments and merely by extension to arbitral awards, Article 12 of the new Law makes express mention of arbitral awards.
  • Article 2 empowers the Enforcement Judge to enforce and monitor the enforcement of judgments and awards in Saudi Arabia, except for those rendered in administrative and criminal matters. Furthermore, the Enforcement Judge is required to follow and to respect Shari'a principles in the course of enforcement, unless the law stipulates otherwise.
  • Article 9 provides for compulsory enforcement upon presentation of an executive deed, including a final arbitral award.
  • Article 10 stipulates that appeals of the Enforcement Judge's decision suspend enforcement, parting with a trend in recent domestic legislation in other parts of the world, such as Article 1526 of the French Civil Procedure Code.
  • Article 11 of the new Enforcement Law states that the Enforcement Judge may enforce a foreign arbitral award only on the basis of principles of reciprocity5 and if the party seeking enforcement can ensure that (i) Saudi courts do not have jurisdiction with regards to the dispute, (ii) the award was rendered following proceedings in compliance with the requirements of due process, (iii) the award is in final form as per the law of the seat of the arbitration, (iv) the award does not contradict a judgment or order issued on the same subject by a judicial authority of competent jurisdiction in KSA, and (v) the award does not contain anything that contradicts Saudi public policy.
  • Article 7 allows the Enforcement Judge to take "all precautionary steps" and "seek assistance from the concerned authorities" if a party should resist or violate enforcement. In addition, the new Enforcement Law lays out the procedures available to an Enforcement Judge in pursuit of enforcement; they include provisional attachment (Arts. 23-33), enforceable attachment (Arts. 34-48), attached funds sale (Arts. 49-59), debtor funds under third-party custody (Arts. 60-67), direct enforcement (Arts. 68-72), and those in case of insolvency of the party against whom the award is being enforced (Arts. 77-92).

The new Enforcement Law represents a great step toward harmonization of Saudi law with international standards and a facilitation of enforcement of arbitral awards with the creation of a specific jurisdiction and specific procedures applicable to such enforcement. It should, in theory, guarantee that the merit of the dispute will not be revisited. However, it remains to be seen what effect these provisions will have in practice. For example, the new Enforcement Law cannot guard against any public policy issues found in awards rendered by foreign arbitrators not versed in Saudi law or Islamic concepts. An arbitral award that violates Saudi public policy, for example, by granting interest (or riba), which is prohibited under Shari'a, may run into problems in enforcement. In such cases, Enforcement Judges may require the entire damages aspect of an arbitration to be reheard, especially where the payment of interest is not severable from the award. Nonetheless, the new Enforcement Law remains a further step toward international legal principles and a strong compliment to the 2012 Arbitration Law.


1. Saudi Arabia's new Enforcement Law was issued through Royal Decree No. M/53 of 13 Sha'ban 1433 Hejra corresponding to July 3, 2012 Gregorian.

2. See S. Saleh, Commercial Arbitration in the Arab Middle East, 2006, p. 66.

3. See Article 13(g) of the Grievances Board Law.

4. The office of the Enforcement Judge is relatively new, having been created by the Judiciary Regulation, Royal Decree No. M/78 of 19 Ramadan 1428 Hejra corresponding to October 1, 2007 Gregorian.

5. Invoking the reciprocity reservation to the New York Convention, Saudi courts have refused to enforce arbitral awards from jurisdictions that would not enforce Saudi judgments or awards.

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 Mondaq.com.

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

In association with
Related Video
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
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (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 www.mondaq.com

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 Mondaq.com’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.

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 by clicking here .

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 unsubscribe@mondaq.com 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 webmaster@mondaq.com.

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 EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

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 enquiries@mondaq.com.

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