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Which domestic laws and regulations govern the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in your jurisdiction?
Despite its brief history as a nation state, Qatar enjoys a highly evolved and organised legal system. The origins of the Qatari legal system are to be found in both ancient and classical sources. On the one hand, it is based on the Islamic legal teachings and, on the other hand, it has adopted many principles of the Napoleonic Civil Code.
Qatar's modern legislative process commenced in 1961 when Law 1/1961, establishing the Official Gazette, was issued. Subsequently, several pieces of modern legislation covering administrative, economic and social activities were promulgated.
As a civil law jurisdiction, statutes which are promulgated by the Emir of the State of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, are the primary source of legislation in Qatar. The most significant law that governs the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in Qatar is Law 13/1990, as amended, regarding the Civil Procedure Code. According to Article 379(1) of the Civil Procedure Code:
"an order may be issued for the execution in Qatar, of an order or judgment that has been rendered in a foreign country, in accordance with the same conditions as those provided for in the laws of that country in respect of the execution of judgments and orders entered in Qatar."
Which international conventions and bilateral treaties relating to the recognition and enforcement of judgments apply in your jurisdiction?
Qatar is a signatory to the following international treaties:
- the Agreement on the Enforcement of Court Judgments, Letters of Rogatory and Judicial Notices in the Gulf Cooperation Council Arab Countries (GCC Convention); and
- the Riyadh Arab Agreement for Judicial Cooperation (Riyadh Convention).
The GCC Convention was ratified by Qatar on April 24 1996, pursuant to Decree 16/1996, and came into force on the same day. The Riyadh Convention was signed on April 6 1983 by all Arab states except Egypt and Comoros.
Which courts are competent to hear cases on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?
The judicial system is organised and established by the Judicial Law 10/2003, according to which litigation is divided into three stages, as is the case in many other modern judicial systems worldwide. The civil courts use written pleadings and rebuttals, but do not usually entertain oral arguments.
All court proceedings are conducted in Arabic. Translators are provided for non-Arabic speaking litigants. Decisions from the lower courts can be appealed before the Court of Appeals and then, in most cases, finally before the Court of Cassation. The court system in Qatar comprises the following courts:
- the Court of First Instance (subdivided into the Criminal Court, the Civil Court, the Administrative Court and the Family Court);
- the Court of Appeals (subdivided into the Criminal Court, the Civil Court, the Administrative Court and the Family Court); and
- the Court of Cassation (the highest court in Qatar).
The Civil Court consists of the Partial Court and the Plenary Court. The Partial Court hears claims that are less than QR100,000, while the Plenary Court hears claims of QR100,000 or more.
In addition to these courts, there is also the Execution Court. By virtue of Article 379 of the Civil Procedure Code, the Execution Court is competent to hear cases on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments.
Distinction between recognition and enforcement
Is there a legal distinction between the recognition and enforcement of a judgment?
Yes – before pursuing the enforcement of a foreign judgment, the party seeking enforcement must ensure that the judgment is imprinted with a writ of execution (exequatur) which constitutes the recognition of the foreign judgment. The grant of the exequatur is followed by the formal enforcement proceedings. The exequatur and execution are two distinct procedures.
Exequatur proceedings are not straightforward. The law requires the applicant to initiate a formal legal action that will include serving the judgment debtor and attending hearings to exchange written submissions and documents until the court issues a formal verdict on whether to grant exequatur to the foreign judgment. This verdict is subject to two levels of appeal before the Court of Appeals and the Court of First Instance.
After the exequatur is granted, the applicant can commence another legal action to seek physical enforcement of the foreign judgment. This process can lead to an investigation by the execution judge into the assets of the judgment debtor and the issuance of a freezing order to prevent dissipation or alienation of such assets until an execution judgment is issued.
Ease of enforcement
In general, how easy is it to secure recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in your jurisdiction?
It is difficult to have a foreign judgment recognised or enforced in the absence of a bilateral or multilateral treaty, or without some form of reciprocal protocol established between Qatar and the foreign country in which the judgment was issued.
The applicant must prove to the local courts that the reciprocity requirement has been satisfied. Once the foreign judgment has been submitted to the local courts, the party resisting enforcement will be required to file its defences. However, it is possible that a judgment may not be enforced, even where such judgment has not been challenged (eg, where the judgment suffers from procedural deficiencies or does not satisfy the criteria of Article 380 of the Civil Procedure Code).
Are any reforms to the framework on recognition and enforcement of judgments envisioned or underway?
As the designation of the Civil Procedure Code suggests, the primary source of legislation has been in place since 1990. Although there has been a push to reform the arbitration framework in Qatar, no known reforms to the framework on recognition and enforcement are envisaged or underway.
Conditions for recognition and enforcement
Which types of judgment (eg, monetary judgments, mandatory or prohibitory orders) are enforceable in your jurisdiction and which (if any) are explicitly excluded from recognition and enforcement (eg, default judgments, judgments granting punitive damages)?
Generally, all types of judgment are enforceable, provided that they:
- satisfy the criteria set out in Article 380 of the Civil Procedure Code (as discussed below);
- have been issued in accordance with the laws and procedures in place in the foreign jurisdiction; and
- do not violate public policy or morals (eg, a judgment in relation to a gambling debt would be unenforceable in Qatar).
Interim orders of a foreign court are not generally enforced in Qatar; however, if it can be demonstrated to the execution court’s satisfaction that the relevant order has attained finality, it may be enforceable.
How are foreign judgments subject to appeal treated?
Pursuant to Article 380 of the Civil Procedure Code, a foreign judgment must be, among other things, final and not subject to subsequent appeals. Accordingly, if a foreign judgment may be appealed, it will not be enforceable in Qatar. Further, from a procedural perspective, foreign judgments must also include a certificate of finality from the issuing court. It is unlikely that such a certificate will be issued if the judgment remains subject to further levels of appeal.
What are the formal and documentary requirements for recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?
The applicant must present the judgment to the Execution Court. The judgment itself must be notarised, legalised and authenticated up to the Qatar embassy in the relevant foreign country. Further, there should be a certificate of finality from the issuing court. The applicant will also need to provide evidence that the judgment was issued in accordance with the laws and procedural requirements of the foreign jurisdiction (eg, the defendant was properly summoned in accordance with the laws of the country of the issuing court).
What substantive requirements (if any) apply to the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments? Are enforcing courts in your jurisdiction permitted to review the foreign judgment on the merits?
The execution of foreign judgments in Qatar is subject to the satisfaction of objective criteria as set out in the Civil Procedure Code. Articles 379 and 380 of the Civil Procedures Code provide that the court may not execute a foreign judgment unless the following requirements are met:
- The judgment must be issued by a court of competent jurisdiction pursuant to the rules of international jurisdiction of the country in which the judgment was issued, and the subject matter of the judgment cannot be regarding a matter which the Qatari courts consider to be exclusively within their jurisdiction.
- The party against which the judgment is to be enforced must have been properly served, summoned and duly represented in the proceedings in the foreign jurisdiction.
- The judgment must be final in accordance with the laws of the country where it was rendered.
- The judgment cannot conflict with a judgment that has been issued by a Qatari court.
- The judgment cannot be contrary to Qatari public policy or ethics.
Generally speaking, foreign judgments issued by competent courts in foreign jurisdictions will be enforceable in Qatar without a re-trial or examination of the merits of the underlying case. However, the Execution Court may scrutinise the underlying subject matter of the dispute to ensure that the judgment does not violate public policy or morals (eg, a judgment for a gambling debt would be unenforceable). Ultimately, it is highly difficult to enforce foreign judgments in Qatar, even where the criteria of Article 380 have been satisfied.
What is the limitation period for enforcement of a foreign judgment?
In 2004 Qatar enacted the Civil Code (Law 22/2004) which, in addition to its applicability in respect of limitation of time and territorial jurisdiction, provides important definitions for terms such as ‘natural’ and ‘judicial’ persons and principles such as legal capacity to sue and be sued. It provides guidelines for the establishment of contractual relations and obligations arising from them. It specifies basic elements of a contract such as consent, subject matter and the purpose of contracting. It also deals with the annulment, construction and binding nature, effect and cancellation of contracts.
Significantly, the Civil Code contains various time limits. Generally, claims are prescribed (time barred) 15 years (403) after the right arises, unless a specific provision in the law states otherwise. This limitation period applies to actions for the enforcement of foreign judgments in Qatar.
These limitation periods may be triggered either at the time the cause of actions arises or after the termination or expiry of a contract.
Grounds for refusal
On what grounds can recognition and enforcement be refused?
Article 382 of the Civil Procedure Code requires that the judgment be issued in accordance with the laws and procedures of the relevant foreign country, including:
- adhering to the requirements for service of process;
- observing any applicable limitation periods; and
- ensuring that the court is indeed competent to issue its decision.
The party seeking to resist enforcement may challenge the judgment on any of these grounds.
Further, if a foreign judgment fails to satisfy one or more criteria set out in Article 380 of the Civil Procedure Code, such deficiencies could also result in a refusal to enforce the judgment (eg, the foreign judgment is still subject to appeal in the foreign jurisdiction).
Service of process
To what extent does the enforcing court review the service of process in the original foreign proceedings?
Generally, the Execution Court will assume that a foreign judgment is issued in accordance with the laws and procedures of the relevant foreign country. However, if it is alleged that service of process was not effected properly, or some other procedural challenge affecting service is raised, the Execution Court could open the matter to review.
What public policy issues are considered in the court’s decision to grant recognition and enforcement? Is there any notable case law in this regard?
As an Islamic country, certain activities are not permitted and such prohibitions have been adopted in various pieces of legislation. The Qatari courts will consider the underlying subject matter of the judgment before proceeding with enforcement of a foreign judgment. Generally, any foreign judgments whose subject matter violates basic principles of Qatar law will be unenforceable. To date, no specific or notable case law exists in this regard.
What is the extent of the enforcing court’s power to review the personal and subject-matter jurisdiction of the foreign court that issued the judgment?
In accordance with Article 380 of the Civil Procedure Code, in order for a foreign judgment to be enforceable, it must have been issued by a court of competent jurisdiction pursuant to the rules of international jurisdiction of the country in which the judgment was issued.
Additionally, the underlying dispute must not have been subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Qatari courts.
A Qatari court will not venture into examining whether the foreign court had proper jurisdiction. If the relevant judgment has attained finality (in that it has run through the appeal stages or the time for appeal has lapsed), then the question of the foreign court’s personal and subject-matter jurisdiction will also have been decided.
Concurrent proceedings and conflicting judgments
How do the courts in your jurisdiction address applications for recognition and enforcement where there are concurrent proceedings (foreign or domestic) or conflicting judgments involving the same parties/dispute?
If there are concurrent proceedings for recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment in a foreign jurisdiction, they will not affect the proceedings for recognition and enforcement in Qatar. However, if a foreign proceeding has been finally decided and the judgment has been enforced, the decision and enforcement will not affect recognition of the foreign judgment in Qatar, but it will make the foreign judgment unenforceable. If there are concurrent proceedings within Qatar, the proceedings will be joined together.
The procedure for the enforcement of conflicting foreign judgments is not specifically addressed in the law. However, each party should be able to seek recognition of each foreign judgment, provided that the judgments meet the criteria set out in the Civil Procedure Code.
What defences are available to the losing party to a foreign judgment that is sought to be recognised and enforced in your jurisdiction?
A losing party may attempt to argue that a foreign judgment fails to meet one or more of the requirements set out in Article 380 of the Civil Procedure Code. Further, if there are any allegations of defects in the original proceedings or judgment, the party against which the judgment is sought to be enforced is allowed to raise the discrepancies as reasons for non-enforcement.
What injunctive relief is available to defendants (eg, anti-suit injunctions)?
Qatar does not offer such relief.
Recognition and enforcement procedure
What is the formal procedure for seeking recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment?
The Court of Cassation has confirmed Article 379 of the Civil Procedure Code, which requires that the enforcement of a foreign judgment must be pursued following the usual procedures involved in the filing of a fresh legal action. Although this does not involve a substantive re-trial on the merits of the matter, it does require a court-based process to be followed, including:
- the filing of a legal action;
- service of process;
- the submission and exchange of pleadings; and
- attendance at court hearings.
The first step is to file a legal action seeking an exequatur in respect of the judgment. If the court accepts the application for the recognition of the judgment, it will grant it the exequatur so that it is enforceable in Qatar. These decisions are subject to two levels of appeal before the Court of Appeals and the Court of Cassation.
After the exequatur is granted, the applicant will be entitled to initiate execution proceedings to seek the enforcement of the judgment. The execution case will be filed by virtue an application to the Execution Court. When the application is registered, a case number will be assigned to it and a hearing date will be set, usually within four to six weeks from the date of filing. Then, the enforcement of the judgment will proceed under the supervision of the Execution Court.
What is the typical timeframe for the proceedings to grant recognition and enforcement?
Generally, proceedings before the Execution Court will be completed in six to nine months. An additional four to six months may be required before the Court of Appeals, and potentially another two to four months will be required if the claim goes before the Court of Cassation. However, it is difficult to anticipate the length of time that the execution proceedings might take. As a matter of procedure in Qatar, judgments issued by first-instance courts are executable unless:
- execution is suspended by the Court of Appeals following an application by the other party demonstrating that it will suffer irreparable damages as a result of execution before the judgment becomes final (which also refers to one of the requirements in Article 380 of the Civil Procedure Code); or
- the other party presents a bank guarantee for the full value of the judgment.
What fees apply to applications for recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?
The fee for the writ of exequatur (ie, effecting recognition) is QR100. Execution of the foreign judgment will require payment of a maximum fee of QR1,000.
Must the applicant for recognition and enforcement provide security for costs?
No – the Qatari courts do not make orders in respect of security for costs, and the law does not require a party to provide security for costs.
Are decisions on recognition and enforcement subject to appeal?
Yes – decisions by the Execution Court may be subject to a further two-stage appeal process through the Court of Appeals up to and including the Court of Cassation.
How does the enforcing court address other costs issues arising in relation to the foreign judgment (eg, calculation of interest, exchange rates)?
The enforcing courts are only permitted to award sums that are included in the final foreign judgment (ie, if the foreign judgment does not mention the imposition of interest then the Qatari courts will not apply interest). If a Qatari court is required to calculate interest, it will either refer the matter to the accounting department in the judiciary or calculate the interest itself.
If a Qatari court is required to apply an exchange rate to an award, it will send a letter to the Qatar Central Bank to confirm the applicable exchange rate, which will then be applied to the judgment.
Enforcement against third parties
To what extent can the courts enforce a foreign judgment against third parties?
The Qatari courts will enforce judgments only against the parties named in the judgment. They will not enforce a judgment against a third party.
Partial recognition and enforcement
Can the courts grant partial recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?
Although the new arbitration law of Qatar addresses the partial enforcement of foreign awards, no such provisions exist in the Civil Procedure Code. It is therefore unclear whether the local courts have discretion grant partial enforcement of a foreign judgment, although it is unlikely in any event that the courts would elect to do so.