In a landmark case (Protech) last week, a judgment of the Qatar International Court ("QIC") has been successfully enforced by the courts of the State of Qatar.

Background

The QIC is established as part of the Qatar Financial Centre ("QFC"). The QFC is a free trade zone which allows foreign businesses registered with it to operate their businesses without being subject to the same regulatory and other requirements applying to Qatari businesses. The QIC is set up primarily to decide civil and commercial cases involving QFC-registered businesses.

However, the judgments of the QIC are only of any value if they are, as a matter of practice, enforced by the courts of the State of Qatar against persons and assets in Qatar. Until the Protech case, there had not been any cases before the State courts to test the issue of enforcement, so there was some uncertainty as to the attitude the State courts would take.

Protech Solutions LLC v Al Shorouqi

In this case the QIC considered an action by a Claimant seeking QAR 2,752,000 from the Defendant on the basis of a bounced cheque. Although the Defendant’s pleaded case was that the cheque in question did not contain his signature, the QIC found (based on clear evidence) that it was the Defendant’s signature on the cheque. Accordingly, judgment was entered for the Claimant in the amount of QAR 2,752,000. However, notwithstanding this the Defendant failed to pay the Claimant, and accordingly the Claimant sought to enforce its judgment.

The QIC has limited powers regarding the enforcement of its own judgments. For practical purposes, enforcement needs to occur by way of a QIC judgment being in effect converted into a judgment of the courts of the State of Qatar. In Protech, when the matter came before the State court, the court enforced the QIC judgment and ordered the Qatar Central Bank to freeze the accounts held in Qatar by the Defendant up to the value of the judgment debt.

Importance of the Case

The Protech case is significant because it demonstrates the State courts of Qatar taking a positive approach to the enforcement of a QIC judgment. This should give comfort to users of the QIC that the judgments given by the court will be upheld for enforcement purposes. Whether the same pro-enforcement approach will be taken in other cases remains to be seen, because the Defendant in Protech did not appear before either the QIC or the State courts. Nevertheless, Protech does give cause for optimism as to the enforcement of QIC judgments.

As with its counterpart courts in the Dubai International Financial Centre and the Abu Dhabi Global Market, one of the keys to success of courts such as the QIC is the support, for the purposes of enforcement, of State courts. It is encouraging that the State courts of Qatar are prepared to lend their support to QIC judgments. The judges of the QIC are some of the most eminent in the world, and the greater use of the court to access the high-quality justice it offers is now made even more attractive as a result of Protech.