Changes to the role of experts in Oman
The roles and duties of experts in the Omani court system was introduced by way of the Law of Evidence promulgated by Royal Decree No. 68 of 2008. However, last year the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs introduced new regulations regulating expert work before the Courts under Ministerial Decision No. 76 of 2021 AD.
The most important elements of the Decision are as follows:
Meeting of the Parties
The Law of Evidence stipulates that an appointed expert shall notify the litigants of the place, day, and time of the first meeting by registered letters. The new Decision stipulates that this meeting may not be convened at the headquarters of any of the litigants or their representatives without the consent of the competent Court.
This change emphasises the Ministry's interest in ensuring the transparency of the expert's work and the importance of the expert carrying out his duties without any pressure, whether from the parties or their representatives.
Confidentiality of Expert Work
The expert, by virtue of his role, will have access to private data and information. The Decision clarifies that the expert is prohibited from providing any data or information to a third party that he has acquired in the course of acting as an expert. The expert is also prohibited from delegating or otherwise passing on cases assigned to him by the court to another expert or person. Further, the expert is also not permitted to entrust the preparation of the report to another expert or third party.
An expert is also not permitted to participate in meetings with any third party who may assist with the preparation of the report, without a special permission from the Court.
The Decision places great emphasis on the importance of confidentiality in dealing with data or information and their privacy and prevents experts from sub-contracting their tasks.
Omanisation of Expert Profession
Perhaps the most important change imposed by the Decision is to require that any court appointed expert must be an Omani national
The Decision seeks to address any concerns over the qualification of experts by obliging court listed experts to attend training programs approved by the Expert Affairs Committee.
The Decision also requires that any expert shall be fully qualified, having a certificate from a recognized entity in the relevant field of specialization, along with at least five years of experience, and not be less than thirty years old. An expert also cannot be an employee of the entities of the Administrative Apparatus of the state and other public legal persons, nor can he or she be a lawyer.
Finally, an expert must be registered in the Commercial Registry to practice in the area related to the field of expertise.
If there is not a properly qualified Omani, who fulfils the requirements listed in the Decision, then the Expert Affairs Committee may appoint a non-Omani to provide the required expert report, provided that he or she fulfils the remaining conditions.
The expert report is an important part of the litigation process in Oman and is frequently used as a medium of evidence. The Decision goes some way to addressing the issues which practitioners have experienced in using court appointed experts and will hopefully lead to a more efficient litigation process