Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Oman Law Digest 2009 - CIVIL ACTIONS AND PROCEDURE

Civil cases are governed by Civil and Commercial Procedure Law [RD 29/02]. Omani citizens and residents are able to file cases in Omani court. Judicial Authority Law [RD 90/99] vests the authority to administer court systems in the Ministry of Justice with the exception of the Administrative and State Security Courts. Jurisdiction for deciding commercial disputes was earlier vested in an authority called The Authority for the Settlement of Commercial Disputes (ASCD). RD 13/97 designated the Authority as Commercial Courts. Judicial Authority Law [RD 90/99] which established the Supreme Court stipulates hierarchy of courts. The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over all other courts. It has authority to review legal principles, review decisions of lower courts, and supervise judges in application and interpretation of law. A historical development in 2008 was the issuance of Evidence Law for Civil and Commercial Transactions for the first time [RD 68/08].

There are six Appellate Courts and 45 Primary Courts. Primary and Appellate Courts have commercial, civil, criminal, Shariah and labour circuits. Courts of first instance constitute the lowest rung of judicial hierarchy.

Pursuant to Conciliation and Settlement Law [RD 98/05], parties to disputes may voluntarily seek mediation by conciliation committees before approaching court for redress.

CRIMINAL CASES
RD 92/99 established independent Prosecution Service and Public Prosecutor’s office in accordance with Basic Law. With exception of appeals to Supreme Court, all appeals in criminal matters must be filed within 30 days. Primary Court hears appeals from rulings made by court of first instance. Appeals over Appellate or Primary Court decisions are heard by five judge bench of Supreme Court. In case of death or life sentence, final petition for clemency may be made to His Majesty.

Under the current system, the Public Prosecutor has offices in regional headquarters which brings cases before the criminal courts. There are two prisons in Oman where those convicted of serious crimes are sent. Prison Law [RD 48/98] requires that education and vocational training are given to prisoners and wages paid to those who are capable of work. Before release, prisoners who have served four years or more of their sentence are given rehabilitation training to reintegrate them into society.

Juvenile Accountability Law was introduced by RD 30/08 to deal with juveniles committing acts punishable by law. The Law requires juveniles (aged between 9 and 18 years) to be tried in special circuits of the Primary Court in designated locations and convicted juveniles to be sent to reformatory.

Extraditidn - RD 4/00 stipulates handing over of criminals to a country demanding extradition. Extradition of a person granted political asylum in Oman is excluded. Omani citizens are not permitted to be extradited.

Death penalty - The Law of Criminal Procedures mandates that Courts of Appeals must refer to the Grand Mufti for religious opinion before awarding death sentences.

Administrative court is administered by the Diwan of the Royal Court to review appeals against government and quasi-government administrative decisions. It has the authority to nullify administrative decisions and to award compensation. Appointments to Administrative Court are subject to approval of the Administrative Affairs Council, with the exception of the Court President and Court Deputy President, who are appointed pursuant to Royal Decree.

State security court exercises jurisdiction over cases involving national security and criminal matters that require expeditious or especially sensitive handling. The Security Court procedures mirror closely those applicable elsewhere in the criminal system.

Stare decisis became a feature of Omani law after the issuance of Judicial Authority Law [RD 90/99].

FOREIGN JUDGMENT
Civil and Commercial Procedure Law [RD 29/02] requires that orders for enforcement of foreign judgment in Oman must be made only if certain conditions are satisfied: (i) the foreign court which issued judgment had jurisdiction to issue it in accordance with rules of jurisprudence of that country; (ii) the judgment is final pursuant to the law of that country; and (iii) it is not issued pursuant to fraud. An Omani court must also ascertain that: (i) the defendant was notified of the case and duly represented; (ii) the judgment is not inconsistent with any law in force or the judgment or order issued by an Omani court or with public policy; and (iii) the courts where the judgment/award is issued accept the enforcement of Omani judgments pursuant to the rule of reciprocity. In practice, due to the strictness of conditions, foreign judgments may be of evidentiary value only and matters may have to be litigated de novo in Omani court.

LEGISLATURE
Refer to Government and Legal System.

Juvenile Accountability Law [RD 30/08] requires establishment of special circuits of Primary Court in designated locations.

To settle disputes regarding jurisdiction of courts and enforcement of conflicting judgments, Law of Conflict of Jurisdiction and Provisions Authority Law was issued by RD 88/08.