The Qatar International Center for Arbitration (the “QICA”) has published its rules of arbitration (the “Arbitration Rules”). The QICA, which was established in 2006 by an Emiri Decree number (5/8) within the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry as an optional forum for commercial arbitration in Qatar. The QICA was established to find an appropriate mechanism to resolve disputes among national companies themselves or between national companies and other foreign companies.
There are two legal arbitration jurisdictions in Qatar: the State of Qatar and the Qatar Financial Center (the “QFC”). The QFC is a separate jurisdiction with its own laws, including laws that govern arbitration of commercial disputes in relation to contracts that have been concluded under QFC Law. Until today there were no cases trialed under the QFC Rules. Until today there is no independent arbitration law in Qatar, rather articles 190-210 of Law No. 13 of 1990 The Civil and Commercial Code of Procedure (the “CCP”) regulate arbitrations.
The New Arbitration Rules provide a new administrative structure for the QICA, which includes a board of governors composed of 11 members, an arbitration committee composed of nine members, and QICA management. The Arbitration Rules will be effective for all arbitration requests presented to the QICA from the date of their publication. The UNCITRAL rules, as modified in 2010, are the main basis for the Arbitration Rules. The Arbitration Rules also provide a model arbitration clause to be included in contracts and agreements and provides for QICA arbitration using either single arbiter, or a panel of three arbitrators.
Some of the main features of the Arbitration Rules are below:
- Allowance for electronic communication between the arbitration panel and the parties.
- The opening statement must be provided within thirty days of the defendant receiving the request for arbitration, and the defense statement must be provided within thirty days from the date of receipt of plaintiff’s opening statement.
- The arbitration panel itself is charged with settling any disputes about its jurisdiction.
- If the parties do not agree on the number of arbitrators, then three arbitrators will be appointed. If the parties do not agree on the appointment of arbitrators from the QICA list, the QICA will appoint the arbitrators.
- The parties can ask for an arbitrator to be disqualified within 15 days from the appointment for the arbitrator, and a financial bond determined by the arbitration panel must be submitted. If the panel decides against the disqualification request, it can be finally appealed to the QICA’s arbitration committee.
- The default time period for the arbitration proceedings is six months, unless the parties agree for a longer period.
- The governing law for the arbitration proceedings is the law chosen by the parties, and if the parties have not agreed to a governing law, the panel will apply the law that is most closely related to the dispute.
- Amiable Compositeur, in which a panel is empowered to decide a dispute in accordance with notions of fairness, is expressly prohibited by the Arbitration Rules unless specifically requested by the parties.
- All panel decisions are in writing and final, and must be accompanied by the arbitration agreement and all the evidence considered.
- The losing party is responsible for the arbitration fees.
A Positive Development:
Market observers will see this as a positive step by Qatar to reach out and serve as a reliable and trusted arbitrator on the international stages, especially since the QICA has already presided, since its inception, over the resolution of hundreds of arbitrations disputes. The challenge will be to see if Qatar manages to produce a modern and effective arbitration law. It remains to be seen if the continued success of the QICA will be to the detriment of the QFC forum, but more importantly, the continued success of the QICA will be based on its ability to administer arbitration disputes in a transparent and professional standard.