Rise of Mediation and Arbitration in Türkiye
By: Dr. Candan Yasan-Tepetaş, Istanbul Bilgi University Faculty of Law
In Türkiye, as in many countries, the heavy caseloads in civil courts constitute a severe problem in the judiciary system. According to daily statistics on the e-justice system, approximately 2,579,000 cases are pending in civil courts. The Ministry of Justice has taken significant steps to decrease this burden.
The Law on Mediation in Civil Disputes nr. 6325, prepared by considering the UNCITRAL Model Law and the EU regulations, was put into effect in 2013. The statistics released by the Ministry of Justice show that 963,990 disputes were referred to voluntary mediation between November 2013 and May 2022, and the rate of settlement is 99%.
A new era began in January 2018 with the launch of mandatory mediation for certain disputes in which resorting to mediation is a pre-condition to filing a lawsuit in Turkish courts. Since its implementation, 1,481,761 files in labour disputes, 483,702 in commercial disputes, and 150,297 in consumer disputes have been referred to mandatory mediation. The success rate for those files is also significant: the settlement rate in labour disputes was 58%, while this rate was 52% in commercial and consumer disputes. Considering these promising results, one can conclude that mandatory mediation helps to reduce the courts’ workload and raise awareness for a culture of resolution.
Türkiye ratified the Singapore Convention on Mediation, which was entered into force for Türkiye in April 2021. As announced in the Foreign Investment Strategy Plan, Türkiye aims to increase the use of mediation for investment disputes.
The other side of the coin is the establishment of the Istanbul Arbitration Centre (“ISTAC”) in 2015. To provide efficient dispute resolution services for both domestic and international parties, ISTAC brought about substantial changes in the field of arbitration in Türkiye. The ISTAC Arbitration Rules, complying with international standards, establish a modern and efficient set of rules. The ISTAC Rules also address the needs of users. Accordingly, the ISTAC Fast-Track Arbitration Rules introduced for the very first time in Türkiye an expedited and simplified procedure to resolve small-scale disputes in 3 months.
ISTAC has attracted many domestic and international cases over the years. In 2022, ISTAC registered more than 140 cases, 43% of which were filed under the Fast-Track Arbitration Rules. The number of cases at the ISTAC increases every year. Lengthy litigation proceedings in Turkish courts have led parties to include arbitration in their contracts. Arbitration agreements are becoming more common in practice.
Mandatory mediation in commercial disputes also paves the way for Mediation-Arbitration (“Med-Arb”). In commercial disputes that remain unsettled after mandatory mediation, parties can agree on arbitration. Considering this possibility, ISTAC launched its Med-Arb Rules in November 2019, followed by the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce Arbitration and Mediation Center (ITOTAM) Med-Arb Rules in 2021.
As a result, Türkiye continues to promote mediation and arbitration. Many steps have been taken to become an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and arbitration-friendly jurisdiction. The awareness of a culture of resolution in the country is increasing. The promising results suggest that the use of ADR and arbitration will also increase in the near future.
 In detail, see Tube Bilecik, ‘Turkish Mandatory Mediation Expands Into Commercial Disputes,’ KLUWER MEDIATION BLOG, available at https://mediationblog.kluwerarbitration.com/2019/01/30/turkish-mandatory-mediation-expands-into-commercial-disputes/
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