Peers and clients say:
"Niuscha has an abundance of hands-on experience"
Niuscha Bassiri is a partner at Hanotiau & van den Berg in Brussels. She acts as counsel and arbitrator (sole, presiding and party-appointed arbitrator) in numerous international arbitrations under the major arbitral institutions and arbitration rules governed by various procedural and substantive laws. The arbitrations in which she has been involved with concern state-entities and private entities alike, spanning a multitude of sectors. She is a member of the faculty of the University of Miami White & Case International Arbitration LLM programme as well as a visiting senior fellow at the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law.
What inspired you to pursue a career in international arbitration?
I am inspired to pursue a career in international arbitration each and every day, and this has been the case for two decades by now. I find great joy in assisting clients and parties to resolve their disputes together with talented colleagues from across the globe.
In my younger years, as a law student, I tried to broaden my knowledge on everything international, except for international arbitration, as it was non-existent as a subject. During my traineeship as a judge, I realised that I would like to be able to apply my knowledge and sense of justice in an international environment, which is why I soon found my place in international arbitration. Today, I have the best of all worlds, acting as arbitrator and counsel, and count myself very lucky.
In your experience, what advantages can clients benefit from in hiring a multilingual arbitrator?
While it is not essential in every case, multiple languages help you to bring more to the table as arbitrator. It allows arbitrators to smoothly navigate across different legal systems in international disputes. Moreover, language ability brings with it a level of cultural familiarity, which helps an arbitrator to see a dispute from several perspectives.
Some practitioners have told us of greater international harmonisation between arbitration codes of conduct, particularly for investor-state arbitration. Is this something you observe, and how could it change arbitration?
I can see the need for harmonisation of counsel code of conduct, while it is also evident that the counsel’s first and foremost obligation is to their home bar code of conduct. It will be difficult to find a one-size-fits all approach. However, I find it important that counsel advise the tribunal and the opposing counsel of any specific restrictions that they are facing from their home bar code of conduct at the outset of the case so that a level playing field can be maintained throughout the proceedings.
What are the stated goals of the ICC task force on corruption and do you think they are ambitious enough?
The stated aim of the ICC Task Force on Addressing Issues of Corruption in International Arbitration is to explore existing approaches to allegations or signs of corruption in disputes and articulate guidance for arbitral tribunals on how to deal with such occurrences. It is an extraordinarily ambitious task to wade through the approach taken to these issues in dozens of jurisdictions, and to synthesise guidance that will be valuable to arbitral tribunals. In my view, the co-chairs of the task force and its various workstreams are doing a stellar job in working towards that objective.
Some jurisdictions are drafting new rules on expedited summary proceedings in arbitration. How fast can disputes proceed without breaching procedural rights?
There is a time and a place for expedited summary proceedings. Where appropriate, swift resolution can be entirely consistent with due process. Summary proceedings are rightly an exceptional solution and one to be approached with due care.
Given your role as adviser at multiple arbitration institutions, what steps can be made to increase diversity in the coming years?
Institutions are at the forefront in increasing diversity in international arbitration. They can and must continue to give space to greater numbers of arbitrators with diverse profiles to gain valuable experience as arbitrator, especially for first-time appointments. Many institutions are doing a fabulous job at increasing gender diversity. Others have more work to do, and there is still plenty to be achieved in terms of other types of diversity.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t say yes to everything; don’t overcommit.