New legal rules and regulations in Qatar

 

The Civil and Commercial Arbitration Law No. 2 of 2017 has introduced major reforms in many areas in Qatar, and supersedes the old commercial and civil procedure code Law No. 13 of 1990.

Similar to the arbitration rules set out in the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) model law, the new Civil and Commercial Arbitration Law is flexible in nature and allows parties to openly determine the arbitration process. The main distinction between the latest Civil and Commercial Arbitration Law and the UNCITRAL model law is that the new law applies to all international and domestic arbitrations taking place in Qatar, or international commercial arbitrations in which the parties have chosen to adopt the provisions of the new law.

In relation to the second category, the new Civil and Commercial Arbitration Law defines “international commercial arbitrations” in a manner similar to the UNCITRAL model law. Therefore, on this basis the new law can be applied much more broadly than the UNCITRAL model law as it applies to both domestic and international arbitrations.

The latest Civil and Commercial Arbitration Law ensures greater alignment with the UNCITRAL model law concerning international commercial arbitration. Although the new law concerns the establishment of ad hoc Qatari arbitration procedures, referring to international institutions such as the International Criminal Court is still a necessity. This new law positively impacts the investment environment in Qatar by increasing transparency in the legal system.

Relevant Authorities

After the announcement of the Civil and Commercial Arbitration Law, the Qatar Court of Appeal and the Qatar Financial Centre Civil and Commercial Court of first instance is appointed to address all the issues concerning the new law, with the assistance of the courts of Qatar.

Essentially, the new Civil and Commercial Arbitration Law regulates dispute resolution options within Qatar. Specifically regarding the enforceability of agreements to arbitrate, it regulates the nullification and enforcement of arbitral awards.

In addition, an “other authority” may be appointed besides those stated above, such as an arbitration centre like the International Criminal Court. It is noteworthy to add that ad hoc arbitrations in Qatar will be ongoing and will not be delayed or disturbed by the latest Civil and Commercial Arbitration Law, as submitting to an arbitration centre is not mandatory.

Application

An agreement to arbitrate is only enforceable if it is in writing. Should the agreement to arbitrate not be in writing it is considered void, unlike litigation. Article 7 of the new law highlights what makes an agreement valid and enforceable.

“Article 7(3): The arbitration agreement shall be in writing; failure to be in writing renders the arbitration agreement null and void.” However, Article 7(4) goes on to note that in cases in which there is no present written record, it will be sufficient that a party admits the existence of the agreement in their pleadings.

The new law highlights the requirement of the delegates to agree on the conclusion of arbitration agreements concerning administration contracts, which can include the engagement of the government or the state of Qatar as outlined in Article 2(2).

Meanwhile Article 2(3) highlights the definitions of the words “civil” and “commercial”, as is similarly done in the model law. The methods of conducting the arbitration are very similar to those used in the UNCITRAL model law; however, there remains The new Civil and Commercial Arbitration Law positively impacts the investment environment by increasing transparency in the legal system a key distinction, which is that expert witnesses are no longer required to take an oath during the oral hearings, because these proceedings will be recorded in the form of minutes.

Tribunal

Concerning the tribunal, Articles 10 and 11 state that the tribunal in an arbitration case will be composed of one or more arbitrators of any nationality. The number can vary so long as the number of arbitrators is odd. Furthermore, Article 16 confirms that the tribunal has the jurisdiction to rule as to its own competence or as it sees fit, adopting the principle of kompetenz-kompetenz, or competence-competence, which is also recognised by the UNCITRAL model law.

Interim Measures

Article 17 specifies that the tribunal is allowed to obtain cost undertakings from the parties that are applying for interim and/or preliminary orders. If the parties do not comply with the article the court of first instance may intervene to ensure enforcement.

Along with enforcement, the tribunal may request assistance from the courts to obtain evidence when required, as stated in Article 27.

Arbitral Awards

Finally, recognition and enforcement of, as well as recourse against, awards are almost identical to those outlined in the UNCITRAL model law provisions, with an important change regarding the time limit stipulated allowing for the challenge of the award. Essentially, such a challenge must be made within one month from the date on which the party received the award.

The Civil and Commercial Arbitration Law No. 2 sets the time frame for correcting the award to be significantly shorter, at seven days from the date of the receipt of the award, as opposed to the 30 days provided under the model law. In the UNCITRAL model law, the award is required to state the reasoning behind the award – unless the parties involved agree otherwise. However, in the new law, the award does not need to be supported by any stated justification as per Article 31(2).

The latest Civil and Commercial Arbitration Law is still relatively vague as to the requirement of reasoning beind the allocation of arbitral awards, but it is advised that parties do set this out beforehand in the arbitration agreement.

Appeal to the awards can be lodged via an application of nullification to the Qatari court system.

Witnesses & Power Of Attorney

Witnesses are no longer required to testify under oath in arbitral proceedings. However, the new Civil and Commercial Arbitration Law highlights the requirement of power of attorney used and accounted for as proof by the arbitral tribunal.

Registering As An Arbitrator

The Civil and Commercial Arbitration Law No. 2 provides a list of candidates accredited by the Ministry of Justice in Qatar to act as arbitrators. A resolution will be issued by the Ministry of Justice that will clarify the conditions that must be met for arbitrators to be certified and registered in Qatar.

In conclusion, the new arbitration law makes the country more attractive to foreign investors. In many ways it is very similar to the UNCITRAL model law, but it will take time to adapt to the changes that have been made. Qatar’s efforts to become more arbitration-friendly have reached a significant milestone through the introduction of this new legislation.

Additionally, the state has been focusing on accomplishing the vision of becoming more appealing to foreign and international investors. Evidence of these efforts includes the opening of the Qatar International Centre for Conciliation and Arbitration, the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre and the Qatar Financial Centre.

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The Report: Qatar 2017

Legal Framework chapter from The Report: Qatar 2017

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