Smart Contracts & International Arbitration

25 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2019

See all articles by Ibrahim Shehata

Ibrahim Shehata

Maastricht University - Department of International and European Law; Cairo University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: November 24, 2018


The Increasing Growth of Conclusion of Smart Contracts on Ethereum raises numerous intriguing Legal Questions in respect of such Smart Contracts. The latter could be categorized into two Main Categories: (I) Weak Smart Contracts & (II) Strong Smart Contracts. Weak Smart Contracts are Smart Contracts which are Revocable or Relatively Irrevocable. On the other hand, Strong Smart Contracts are Smart Contracts which are Absolutely Irrevocable. Smart Contracts on Blockchains (i.e. Ethereum) usually take the form of Strong Smart Contracts. In this regard, this paper will focus solely on Strong Smart Contracts. First, we need to figure out whether there are Absolutely Irrevocable Agreements under Contract Law. If yes, then we need to explore how the National Courts and the Arbitral Tribunals have dealt with such Contracts in Practice. Second, most of the disputes that would arise out of Strong Smart Contracts would be dealing with cross-border transactions, and therefore arbitration would be normally the optimal dispute resolution mechanism for these disputes. Therefore, we need to determine the Legal Issues associated with the Arbitration of Disputes arising out of or in relation to Strong Smart Contracts. Precisely, we need to define the Safeguards that must be developed to ensure the Recognition and Enforcement of Arbitral Awards for these Disputes on an International Level under the New York Convention. Third, Arbitration itself could take the form of a Strong Smart Contract. Thus, we have to consider whether Strong Smart Arbitration Contracts are legally viable in the first place. Specifically, whether the Absolute Irrevocability of such Strong Smart Arbitration Contracts would constitute an Obstacle to the Recognition & Enforcement of such Agreements before the National Courts. Finally, we could lend our help to the Tech Community through 3 main efforts: (1) Survey the Current Initiatives proposed in the White Papers prepared by the Tech Community; (2) Assess how far the Tech Community is taking into consideration all the Potential Legal Dilemmas associated with Smart Contracts' Dispute Resolution & (3) Prescribe Possible Legal Solutions that would also make sense from in the eyes of the Tech Community.

Keywords: Blockchain, Smart Contracts, International Arbitration

Suggested Citation

Shehata, Ibrahim, Smart Contracts & International Arbitration (November 24, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Ibrahim Shehata (Contact Author)

Maastricht University - Department of International and European Law ( email )


Cairo University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Cairo University Rd

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