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ADMISSIBILITY OF ILLEGALLY EVIDENCE IN INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION

Updated: Oct 1

Author: Sameer Afzal Ansari, IV year of B.A.,LL.B. from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University.


The tCovid-19 tpandemic thas tnecessitated tthe tdigital tshift tand tincreased dependence ton tdigital ttechnology. tIn trecent ttimes, tthe tadmissibility tof illegally tobtained tevidence t(‘IOE’) thas tproven titself tan timperative tnotion in tinternational tarbitration. tThis tsurge tin tdata tprotection tand tprocessing regulations tprompted tthe trevision tin tRules ton tthe tTaking tof tEvidence tin International tArbitration t(‘2020 tIBA tRules’), treplacing tthe tformer trules from t2010 twith tthe taim tof tbringing tthe trules tin tline twith tthe prevailing consensus tin tinternational tarbitration, tand tto taddress tthe tincreasing reliance ton ttechnology tbrought tabout tby tthe tpandemic. tThe t2020 tIBA Rules tfocus ton tcybersecurity tas tone tof tthe tmajor tconcerns tin international tcommercial tarbitrations, towing tto tthe tcommercial tvalue tof the tdocuments tinvolved twhile tensuring tthe tdigital tprotection tof tparties, experts, twitnesses tand tarbitral tinstitutions tas twell.


In tthe tpost, tthe tauthors tfocus ton tthe tissue tof tthe tadmissibility tof evidence tobtained tthrough thacked temails tand tdata tbreaches. tSince tthere is tno tcomprehensive tset tof trules tto tgovern tthe tadmissibility tof tIOE tin international tarbitration, twe tseek tto tshed tsome tlight ton tthe t2020 tIBA Rules tand tprovide ta tset tof trecommendations, twhich tmay thelp tthe tribunals twhenever tthey tare tconfronted twith tquestions tpertaining tto tIOE.


IBA Rules on the Taking of Evidence in International Arbitration

Arbitral tinstitutions tacross tthe tglobe tare tfree tto tadmit tany tevidence tas hey tdeem tfit, tdeterminable ton ta tcase-by-case tbasis. tHowever, tthey tought to texercise tsuch tpower twithin tthe trestrictive twalls tof tthe tgoverning trules of tprocedure, ti.e. tlex tarbitri. tPreviously, tonly tarticle t9(2) tof tthe t2010 IBA Rules tprovided tsome tguidance ton tthe taspect tof tadmissibility tof evidence, which ttoo twas, tat ttimes, tsilent twhen tposed twith tpractical tquestions about the tadmissibility tof tthe tIOE. tHowever, tthe trevised trule t9(3) tmakes explicit tmention tof tthe tissue tof tIOE twhich tis ta tstep tin tthe tright direction. tFurthermore, twhile tthe tformer t2010 tIBA tRules tclearly provided for tconfidentiality tto tthe tdocuments tsubmitted tin tarbitrations, tthey twere, however, tsilent tas tto twhether tsuch tconfidentiality tprotection tapplied tto documents tproduced tin tresponse tto ta trequest tfor tproduction. tThe t2020 IBA tRules texplicitly textend tthe tscope tof tconfidentiality tto tdocuments produced tin tresponse tto ta trequest tto tproduce t(article t9).


Landmark Cases on the Issue of Admissibility of IOE

Yukos tv. tRussia is tone tof tthe tpremier tcases tin tinternational tinvestment arbitration twherein tthe tPermanent tCourt tof tArbitration t(PCA) tadopted the liberal tapproach twhile tdeciding tthe tadmissibility tof tobtained tevidence. Yukos tOil tCompany’s tformer tmajority tshareholders tand tmanagement filed an tarbitration tclaim tagainst tRussia tunder tthe tEnergy tCharter tTreaty (ECT) tbefore tthe tPCA. tAlthough tthere tis tno texplicit tmention tabout tthe issue tof tadmissibility tof tIOE, ti.e., tconfidential tdiplomatic tcables treleased bytWikiLeaks, tthe ttribunal tseemed tto thave trelied textensively ton tthese documents tto treach tthe tconclusion. tWhile tthe tYukos tawards tfailed tto offer ta tclear tanalysis tof tthe tissue tabout tthe tadmissibility tof tsuch tshreds of tevidence, tthe tPCA’s tconclusion tin tHulley tEnterprises tclarified tthat IOE is tadmissible tbefore ttribunals, twhich tmay trely ton tit, tthus texpanding tthe scope tof tadmissibility tof tevidences.


Continuing tthis ttrend, tthe tInternational tCentre tfor tSettlement tof Investment tDisputes t(‘ICSID’) tjudgment tin tConocoPhillips tv. tVenezuela proved tto tbe tanother tlandmark tdecision ton tthe tissue. tHowever, tthe dissenting topinion tof tone tof tthe tarbitrators, tProfessor tGeorges tAbi-Saab, opened tthe tfloodgates tfor ta tnew tapproach tin tinternational tarbitration tfor the tadmissibility tof tIOE. tThe tarbitrator targued tin tfavour tof tthe admissibility tof tsuch tevidence tfor ttwo tmain treasons: t(a) tthat tdocuments procured twere tmaterial tand trelevant tto tthe tdispute, t(b) tthe tprivileged tor confidential tinformation twas tlater tleaked tand tbecome tpublic tinformation and tthe tdispute tin tsuch tcases tshould tbe tdecided tin tlight tof ton tpublic policy tgrounds.


Subsequently, tin tCaratube tInternational tOil tCompany tLLP tv tRepublic of Kazakhstan, tthe tclaimant trelied ton tevidence tthat twere tobtained tthrough t leaked temails tpublished ton tthe twebsite t‘KazakhLeaks’, tfollowing ta tcyber-breach tof tthe tKazakh tGovernment’s tcomputer tnetwork. tThe ttribunal admitted tthe tclaimants’ tsubmission tof tnon-privileged tleaked tdocuments, but trefused tto tadmit tprivileged tleaked tdocuments t(namely tprivileged attorney-client tcommunications). tIt toffered ta ttwo-pronged treasoning tfor admitting tsuch tevidence: t(a) tthe tdocuments twere tevaluated tas t‘material’ and t‘relevant tto tthe tdispute’ tand t(b) tthe tevidence twhich twas tsought tto be trelied tupon twas tthen twidely, tfreely tand tlawfully tavailable tin tthe public tdomain, tso tit tcould tneither tbe tconsidered tprivileged tinformation nor tbe tseen tas tconfidential.


In tLibananco tHoldings tCo. tLimited tv. tRepublic tof tTurkey, tthe tPCA tdid not tper tse trule tthe trespondent’s tconduct tof tintercepting tprivileged communication tas tillegal, tbut tordered tfor tits texclusion tfrom tthe proceedings. tHere, tit topted tto tprotect tthe tlegal tprivilege tand tparties’ obligation tto tarbitrate tfairly tand tin tgood tfaith tthereby tpreserving tthe basic tprocedural tfairness. Conclusion There thas tbeen ta tgradual tincrease tof tcases tinvolving tthe tissue tof tthe admissibility tof tevidence tgathered tvia tcyber-attacks, tand tthis tcalls tfor ta uniform tmethod tto tadjudicate tupon tsuch tissues. tHowever, tthere continues to tbe ta tlack tof tconsensus tamongst tarbitral ttribunals tregarding tthe approach tto tbe tadopted twith tregard tto tthe tadmission tof tIOE. tTribunals at ttimes tadopted tthe tstricter tapproach tin torder tto tprotect tthe tprocedural integrity tof tdispute tresolution, twhile tin tother tcases ttribunals thave adopted ta tliberal tapproach tby tadmitting tthe tnon-privileged tevidence tand deciding tthe tcase ton tthe tmerits tof tthe trelevant tfacts.


Suggestions To tresolve tthe texisting tconundrum ton tthe tissue, tthe tauthors tpropose ta tset tof tquestions tthat tthe ttribunals tshall tconsider twhile tevaluating tthe tadmissibility tof tsuch tevidence: Whether the evidence procured is genuine and authentic or has been tampered with The tdecision tof tthe tTrial tChamber tof tthe tSpecial tTribunal tfor tLebanon tcan tbe tconsidered tin tthis tregard, tas tit tanalyzed tthe tissue tof tadmissibility tof tIOE tespecially tin trespect tto tWikiLeaks tdocuments. tIn tthis tcase, tthe ttribunal topined tthat talthough tthe tdocuments twere trelevant tand tmaterial tfor tthe tcase, tit twas tnot tsatisfied twith tthe taccuracy tand tbelieved tthat tthe tdocument tdid tnot tdisplay tsufficient tauthenticity.


Whether the cyber intrusion is utilized in furtherance of public interest William tW tPark, tone tof tthe trenowned tacademics tin tthe tfield, tstated tin tresponse tto tthis tassertion tthat tarbitration tneeds tto tbe tbalanced twith tthe tcontinual tinclusion tof t“truth tseeking tvalues tthat tfurther tpublic tgoals”. tArbitral ttribunals thave ta tduty tto tprioritize tpublic tinterest tin tcyber tintrusion tbased tadjudications, tand tensure tthat tin tthe texecution tof tjustice tthe tbetterment tof tsociety tis tsecured tas twell.


Blair tand tGojkovic thave tanalyzed tthe tjurisprudence tpertaining tto tIOE tvis-à-vis tpublic tinterest. tSimilarly, tthe tICSID ttribunal tin tthe tCaratube truled tthat tthe texpropriation, tabuse tof tdue tprocess tand tcollateral testoppels tundertaken tby tthe tKazakhstani tgovernment twas tnot tmotivated tby tpublic tinterest. tThereby, tthe tIOE twas truled tas t‘admissible’ tin tfurtherance tto tactualize tthe tliability tof tthe tKazakh tgovernment. tThus tthe tcreations tof tbasic trequirements thave tbeen texpounded tby tBlair tand tGojkovic, tnamely:

  1. Has tthe tevidence tbeen tobtained tunlawfully tby ta tparty twho tseeks tto tbenefit tfrom tit?

  2. Does tthe tpublic tinterest tfavour trejecting tthe tevidence tas tinadmissible?

  3. Do tthe tinterests tof tjustice tfavor tthe tadmission tof tevidence?

  4. Whether tthe tparty trelying ton tsuch tevidence tis tan tinterested tparty tand twas tdirectly tor tindirectly tinvolved tin tthe tprocurement tof tevidence tin tan tunlawful tmanner?


Herein, tit tbecomes timportant tto trevisit tthe tCaratube tand tLibananco. tIt tis tworth tnoting tthat tin tCaratube, tthe twrongdoing t(unlawful thacking) twas tcommitted tby ta tthird tparty, twhich tis tin tcontrast twith tLibananco. tThis tmay twell texplain tdifferent topinion tof tthe ttribunal tin tboth tthe tcases.

The tTribunal tin tCaratube

  1. Rejected tthe tadmission tof tevidences tthat twere tpreviously tprotected tby tany tkind tof tprivilege.

  2. Allowed tthe tadmission tof tevidence twhich thas tnot tbeen tprotected tby tany tprivilege tand twas tleaked tby tthe tparty tdisinterested tin tthe toutcome tof tthe tdispute.

  3. The ttribunal topined tthat tIOE tmay tbe tadmitted teven tif ta ttribunal t‘affords tprivileged tdocuments tthe tutmost tprotection’.


For tthe tpurpose tof tthis tpost, tthe tauthors tdo tnot tconsider t‘disinterested tperson’ tas tone twho tdoes tnot tform tpart tof tthe tproceedings tnor thas tany tpersonal tfinancial tgains tfrom tproviding tthe tadducing tparty taccess tto tthe tevidence. tHowever, tfrom tthe tauthors’ tperspective tthe tthird-party tprocurer twho tacts tas ta t‘middleman’ tand tarranges tfor tthe tevidence tfrom tthe tdisinterested tindividual tto tthe tadducing tparty tis tnot ta tdisinterested tperson, tsince tthe tpayment tacts tas ta tcondition tfor tproviding tthe tthird tparty taccess tto tsuch tevidence. While targuing tfor tthe tprocedural tintegrity tin tsuch tcases, tthe tauthors trecommend tthe tinclusion tof ta tcommon ttest tacross tarbitral tbodies tand ttribunals talike, tto testablish tbasic tguiding tprinciples tand tparameters tfor tevidence tobtained tfrom tcyber tintrusions. tWe tbelieve tthat tadmission tof tall tkinds tevidence t(privileged tor tnon-privileged) tobtained tvia tcyber tbreach twould tencourage tsuch tcyber-attacks tand tparties tto tgo tto tany textent tto tprove ttheir tcase, tthereby tstripping tthe tprocedural trules tof ttheir tintended teffect. tFurthermore, twhile trelying ton tsuch tevidence, twhich twas trecently treleased tin ta tpublic tdomain, tparties’ tproximity tor tprobable tnexus tto tsuch tincident tshould tbe tclosely tlooked tinto. tAdditionally, tin tcase tthe tparty tto tthe tarbitration tis tfound tto thave tties twith tsuch tincidents, tthen tthe tevidence tshould tnot tbe tadmitted. tThat tsaid, twe thope tthat tsufficient tclarity tis tinduced tinto tthe texisting tconundrum tthat tprovides ta tfeasible tsolution tto tthe tissue tof tadmissibility tof tevidence tobtained tvia tthe tcyber tbreach.