Modern Mediation Developments in Bhutan
The legal formalization of the practice of mediation in Bhutan derives from sections DA 3-1 & DA 3-2 of the Thrimzhung Chenmo (Supreme Law) of 1953. The option to resolve a civil dispute through mediation is incorporated under section 150 of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment Act 2011). Judges in Bhutan are mandated by law to inform litigants of their right to mediate their disputes out of court. While the importance of negotiated settlements is recognized by the judicial system, there is no procedural mechanism established for conducting the mediation process. Thus, mediation procedures have varied widely, depending on who conducts the mediation and local practice.
The Bhutan National Legal Institute (BNLI), the judicial training institute, began providing training to mediators and educating the public about the beneficial use of mediation in 2012. In conformity with modern mediation standards, Bhutan has been restructuring its practice to provide a process that is interest-based and facilitative in nature. Mediators now understand that confidentiality is at the core of the mediation process.
Private mediations are increasing in Bhutan. At the same time, the traditional mediation system has been reinvigorated with community mediation services, which are always provided free of cost. The Bhutanese judiciary hopes to introduce court-annexed mediation programs in the near future in a few selected courts.
By Judge Pema Needup, Senior Fellow – Bhutan, Weinstein International Foundation