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Starting an arbitration proceeding
What is needed to commence arbitration?
The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure does not require a specific mechanism to commence arbitration. This will frequently be addressed in the institutional rules, if any.
The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Arbitration Regulations proceed on the basis that the claimant has sent a request for a dispute to be referred to arbitration to the respondent (Article 27 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations), subject to the parties’ agreement and any applicable institutional rules.
Are there any limitation periods for the commencement of arbitration?
Any arbitration proceedings commenced after the applicable limitation period will be time barred pursuant to Qatari substantive law. Under Qatari law, the general prescription for claims of personal rights is 15 years (Article 403 of the Civil Code). Other claims have shorter limitation periods, for example, engineers have five years to claim any outstanding fees (Article 405 of the Civil Code).
Are there any procedural rules that arbitrators must follow?
The parties are entitled to agree on the procedure to be followed. If the seat is in Qatar, there are no particular procedural steps that arbitrators must follow, unless otherwise addressed in any of the other questions herein.
Are dissenting opinions permitted under the law of your jurisdiction?
The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure and the QFC Arbitration Regulations do not disallow dissenting opinions, and there is no reason to assume that an arbitrator is not entitled to give a dissenting award.
Can local courts intervene in proceedings?
The courts can intervene in the specific circumstances provided for in the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure:
- The courts can assist in the taking of evidence. The tribunal may request that the court initially competent to hear the dispute issue an order for the submission of any documents necessary for arbitration which are held by others or order any witness to appear before the tribunal to give evidence (Article 200 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). The tribunal can also ask the court to punish a witness who refuses to give evidence before the tribunal (Article 201 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).
- If matters arise during the proceedings that fall outside the jurisdiction of the arbitrators, the parties can seek the assistance of local courts. In this scenario, the arbitrators must stay the proceedings until the issuance of a final decision on the deferred matter (Article 199 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).
- The courts can be requested to remove an arbitrator.
Under the QFC Arbitration Regulations, assistance can be sought from both the local courts and the QFC Tribunal (the body in the QFC which administers and enforces QFC commercial laws and assists in the conduct of arbitrations under the QFC Arbitration Regulations). The QFC Tribunal can assist arbitral tribunals in the taking of evidence (Article 33 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations), and parties can request interim measures from local state courts and the QFC Tribunal before or during arbitral proceedings (Article 12 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Can the local courts assist in choosing arbitrators?
If a dispute arises between the parties in relation to the appointment of arbitrators, or if one or more of the arbitrators is unavailable, refuses to act, withdraws or is dismissed, the court with original jurisdiction to consider the dispute may appoint an arbitrator (Article 195 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).
Under the QFC Arbitration Regulations, the QFC Tribunal can secure the appointment, not the Qatari courts (Article 14 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
What is the applicable law (and prevailing practice) where a respondent fails to participate in an arbitration? Can the courts compel parties to arbitrate? Can they issue subpoenas to third parties?
The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure does not expressly address what happens when a respondent fails to participate in the arbitration. To avoid the possibility that one party boycotts the proceedings, a tribunal should nonetheless be allowed to continue with the proceedings (as a Qatari court could do in certain circumstances in state court litigation) (Article 51 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).
The QFC Arbitration Regulations expressly provide that the arbitral tribunal may proceed with the arbitration and render an award on the evidence before it if a respondent fails to communicate its statement of defence or fails to appear at a hearing, without showing sufficient cause for such failure (Article 31 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
In what instances can third parties be bound by an arbitration agreement or award?
Under the Qatari Civil Code, a contract is binding only on the contracting parties and their successors. An arbitral tribunal may therefore assume jurisdiction over third parties only in the event of a general succession to a party, or when the arbitration agreement is formally assigned. Apart from these situations, the scope of the arbitration agreement or award is limited to the parties. The group of companies doctrine does not appear to be recognised in Qatar.
Default language and seat
Unless agreed by the parties, what is the default language and location for arbitrations?
There is no default provision for the determination of the seat and language of the arbitration under the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure. The code provides that the laws of Qatar will apply to all elements of the dispute when the parties agree to hold their arbitration in Qatar, but the provision does not appear to apply where the parties have not designated a seat (Article 198 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). Therefore, the arbitral tribunal must determine the seat and the language of the arbitration, once the tribunal is established.
Pursuant to the QFC Arbitration Regulations, the parties are free to agree on the language and the seat of arbitration. Failing such agreement, these matters will be determined by the arbitral tribunal (Articles 26 and 28 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
How is evidence obtained by the tribunal?
The procedure in the taking of evidence is left to the agreement of the parties, and absent any such agreement, to the discretion of the arbitral tribunal.
What kinds of evidence are acceptable?
An arbitral tribunal may take both written and oral evidence (Article 200 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). Typically, a tribunal will form its decision on the basis of documents, witness evidence and expert evidence. In addition, the QFC rules expressly provide for the possibility of a tribunal-appointed expert (Article 32 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Is confidentiality ensured?
Neither the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure nor the QFC Arbitration Regulations provide for the confidentiality of arbitration proceedings. However, the parties can agree that the arbitration must be kept confidential.
The draft arbitration law is expected to prohibit the publication of awards.
Can information in arbitral proceedings be disclosed in subsequent proceedings?
Subject to the answer above, information disclosed in arbitral proceedings can be referred to in subsequent proceedings, unless the parties have agreed otherwise.
What ethical codes and other professional standards, if any, apply to counsel and arbitrators conducting proceedings in your jurisdiction?
The Qatari Advocacy Law (23/2006) sets out ethical and professional rules that govern the conduct of lawyers admitted to Qatari courts. It covers duties of loyalty, confidentiality and good reputation of lawyers. Non-Qatari lawyers are not entitled to practise law in Qatar outside of the regime created by the QFC, unless they hold a specific authorisation from the Lawyers Admission Committee.
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