Hague Service Convention
|Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters|
|Signed||15 November 1965|
|Effective||10 February 1969|
|Parties||68 (May 2013)|
|Depositary||Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands|
|Languages||French and English|
|Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters at Wikisource|
The Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, more commonly called the Hague Service Convention, is a multilateral treaty which was signed in The Hague on 15 November 1965 by members of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. It allows service of process of judicial documents from one signatory state to another without use of consular and diplomatic channels. The issue of international service had been previously addressed as part of the 1905 Civil Procedure Convention which was also signed in The Hague, which did not command wide support and was ratified by only 22 countries.
Diplomatic service via letters rogatory
Diplomatic channels are generally used between those states that are not contracting parties to the convention. It is generally effected by a letter rogatory, a formal request from the court in the country where proceedings were initiated or underway to a court in another country where the defendant resided. This procedure generally requires transmission of the document to be served from the originating court to the foreign ministry in the state of origin. The foreign ministry in the state of origin forwarded the request to the foreign ministry in the destination state. The foreign ministry then forwards the documents to the local court where the party to be served resided and the local court would arrange for service on the party to be served. Once service was made, a certificate of service (proving that service was made) would then pass through the same channels in reverse. Under a somewhat more streamlined procedure, courts can sometimes forward service requests to the foreign ministry or the foreign court directly, cutting out one or more steps in the process.
The Hague Service Convention established a more simplified means for parties in signatory states to effect service in other contracting states. Under the convention, each contracting state is required to designate a "Central Authority" to accept incoming requests for service. A "Judicial Officer" who is competent to serve process in the state of origin is permitted to send request for service directly to the "Central Authority" of the state where service is to be made. Upon receiving the request, the Central Authority in the receiving state arranges for service in a manner permitted within the receiving state, typically through a local court to the defendant's residence. Once service is effected, the "Central Authority" sends a certificate of service to the "Judicial Officer' who made the request. Parties are required to use three standardised forms:
- a request for service
- a summary of the proceedings (similar to a summons),
- a certificate of service.
The main benefits of the Hague Service Convention over Letters Rogatory is that it is faster (requests generally take 2 – 4 months rather than 6 – 12 months), it uses standardised forms which should be recognised by authorities in signatory countries, and in most cases, it is cheaper because service can be effected by the local attorney without hiring a foreign attorney to advise on how to serve.
The Hague Service Convention does not prohibit a receiving state from permitting international service by other methods otherwise authorised by local law (for example, service directly by mail or personal service by a person otherwise authorised to service process in the foreign country). For example, in the United States, service can often be made by a private process server. States which permit parties to use these "alternative means" of service make a separate designation in the documents they file with the Convention.
Definition of court officers
Service by mail
The interpretation of a provision in article 10(a) is controversial. The provision permits the requesting judicial officer to "send" judicial documents by postal channels to countries that authorise this usage in ratifying the convention, such as France and Italy. Other provisions of the convention say "serve" or "service". The controversy is over whether the provision permits service directly on parties by mail. In the United States, some courts interpret this provision to permit service by mailing documents directly to individuals; others hold that the provision only authorises sending, but not serving, documents by mail. The European Court of Justice and courts in Greece and Alberta interpret the provision to permit formal service by mail. Other countries, including Germany, Switzerland, and most current and former communist countries, require incoming service to be effected exclusively through the country's central authority.
Relation with other instruments
Under the convention, countries may conclude different agreements between them that take precedence over the convention. Thus, within the European Union (except for Denmark) Council Regulation (EC) No. 1348/2000 applies instead of the convention.
As of May 2013, 68 states are contracting parties of the Hague Service Convention. They include 54 of the 73 Hague Conference on Private International Law member states, plus Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Colombia, Kuwait, Malawi, Moldova, Pakistan, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, and Seychelles.
- "United States of America – Central Authority & practical information". Hague Conference on Private International Law. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
- "Preparation of Letters Rogatory". US Department of State. Retrieved 11 August 2011.