The international arbitration tribunal is the independent and non-governmental panel of independent and impartial experts most often composed of three members nominated by the Parties (or appointed by the international arbitration institution, or more rarely by a national court) on the basis of their legal and practical expertise and knowledge, to render a final and binding award.
Cautious Parties will provide for the specific characteristics and background of the members of the international arbitration tribunal (e.g. common law or civil law background, special expertise in construction projects, joint venture disputes, licensing agreements, etc.) in the international arbitration agreement upon the conclusion of the underlying commercial contract. The Parties most often rely on the support of an international arbitration institution (e.g. ICC, LCIA, SCC, etc.) in order to constitute the international arbitration tribunal, for example in the event that the Parties cannot agree on the nomination of the sole arbitrator.
When Parties choose to conduct an international arbitration under the aegis of an international arbitration institution, the arbitration rules of this institution define the skeleton of the procedural rules to be followed by the Parties but do not fill in all the details which are left for the Parties to agree upon on the basis of party autonomy (see Article 18 of the UNCITRAL Model Law). Where the Parties cannot agree, the international arbitration tribunal enjoys very broad procedural discretion to impose procedural rules tailored specifically to the particular needs of the case at hand, provided that the Parties are treated equally, fairly and are given an opportunity to be heard.
All members of an international arbitration tribunal are required to be impartial and independent of the Parties to the dispute. This principle applies to co-arbitrators (arbitrators appointed by the Parties, the President of the international arbitration tribunal and sole arbitrators). Where circumstances give doubts as to the impartiality or independence of a member of an international arbitration tribunal, the UNCITRAL Model Law (Article 13) provides for challenge mechanisms by which these obligations are enforced and the arbitrator is removed by the international arbitration institution (in the case of an institutional arbitration) or by the national court (in the case of an ad hoc arbitration).