Use the Lexology Navigator tool to compare the answers in this article with those for 20+ other jurisdictions.
National arbitration laws
What legislation applies to arbitration in your jurisdiction?
The legislation governing arbitration in Qatar is Law 2/2017 Promulgating the Civil and Commercial Arbitration Law (the Arbitration Law). The Arbitration Law was adopted on February 16 2017 and came into effect in April 2017.
The Arbitration Law replaces the previous regime based on the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure, promulgated by Law 13/1990.
The adoption of the Arbitration Law was a decisive move towards Qatar’s growing profile as an international arbitration venue, as it is based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law and more in line with international arbitration practice than the previous arbitration law. The specifics of the Arbitration Law are discussed in detail below, but among the most significant changes are that it has narrowed the grounds for appeal of arbitral awards to reflect those in the UNCITRAL Model Law, and expressly recognises the principles of competence-competence and separability.
Qatar Financial Centre
Arbitration may also be conducted within the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), in which case the arbitration will be governed by the 2005 QFC Arbitration Regulations. The QFC legal system is entirely separate to the legal system of Qatar.
The QFC Arbitration Regulations apply only where the parties have agreed that the QFC will be the seat of the arbitration. However, some provisions conferring powers on the QFC Court also apply if the QFC is not the seat of the arbitration (Article 6 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Are there any mandatory laws?
There is a public policy exception in the Arbitration Law which provides that the ‘competent court’ (as defined in Article 1) may annul or refuse to recognise or enforce an arbitral award if the award involves a violation of the public order of Qatar (Articles 33(3) and 35(2)(B) of the Arbitration Law).
Article 43 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations also provides that the QFC Tribunal may refuse to recognise or enforce an award where its recognition or enforcement would be “contrary to the public policy of the QFC”.
New York Convention
Is your country a signatory to the New York Convention? If so, what is the date of entry into force?
Yes, Qatar acceded to the New York Convention on December 30 2002. It came into force on March 30 2003.
Are there any reservations to the general obligations of the convention?
Qatar expressed no reservations to the convention.
Treaties and conventions
What other treaties and conventions in relation to arbitration is your jurisdiction party to?
In relation to foreign investments, Qatar is a party to the Convention on the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States 1965 (ICSID Convention), which came into force in Qatar on January 20 2011.
As of February 2018, Qatar has signed 54 bilateral investment treaties, 23 of which are in force. Qatar has also signed trade agreements with major investment partners containing investment provisions, whether individually or through its membership in the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Qatar is also a party to other conventions pertaining to arbitration, notably:
- the Convention on Judicial Cooperation between states of the Arab League 1983 (Riyadh Convention);
- the Arab Convention on Commercial Arbitration 1987; and
- the Gulf Council Convention for the Enforcement of Court Judgments, Letters of Rogatory and Judicial Notices 1996 (Gulf Convention).
Has your jurisdiction adopted the UNCITRAL Model Law?
Yes, whereas the previous legal regime was not based on the UNCITRAL Model Law, the Arbitration Law is. However, there are deviations from the UNCITRAL Model Law. For example, the Arbitration Law includes provisions on the immunity of arbitrators (Article 11(11)), which the UNCITRAL Model Law does not address. Further, the time limits for challenging an award or seeking a correction or interpretation of an award are shorter in the Arbitration Law than in the UNCITRAL Model Law.
The QFC Arbitration Regulations are also heavily based on the UNCITRAL Model law.
Are there any impending plans to reform the arbitration laws in your jurisdiction?
As the Arbitration Law represents a comprehensive update to the previous arbitration regime in Qatar, further reforms are not expected in the foreseeable future.
What are the validity requirements for an arbitration agreement?
Article 7(3) of the Arbitration Law requires that any arbitration agreement be in writing. Under Article 7(4), an assertion by either party that the arbitration agreement exists in a statement of claim or response pleading will automatically satisfy the requirement that it be in writing if that assertion is not challenged by the other party.
Further, the parties must have the legal capacity to enter into an arbitration agreement, and the agreement must be formed in respect of a specific legal relationship between the parties (whether contractual or otherwise) (Article 7(1) of the Arbitration Law).
The arbitration agreement must be in writing (Article 10(1)). An arbitration agreement will be taken to be in writing even if the rest of the agreement is concluded orally as long as the relevant arbitration clause, terms and conditions or rules are in writing (Article 10(3) of the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Arbitration Regulations).
Enforcement of agreements
How are arbitration agreements enforced in your jurisdiction? What is the attitude of the national courts towards arbitration agreements?
Article 8(1) of the Arbitration Law makes clear that any dispute which is the subject of an arbitration agreement will be deemed inadmissible in court, unless that agreement is null and void, inoperative or incapable of being performed. Given the clear message that has been adopted in the new Arbitration Law, it is to be expected that Qatari courts will give full effect to valid arbitration agreements.
Article 11(1) of the QFC Arbitration Regulations mirrors the above provision, and proceedings can therefore only be brought before the QFC Tribunal if the agreement is null and void, inoperative or incapable of being performed.
Can an arbitral tribunal with its seat in your jurisdiction consolidate separate arbitral proceedings under one or more contracts, and, if so, in what circumstances?
There is no express provision on the consolidation of separate arbitral proceedings in the Arbitration Law. Subject to any applicable institutional rules, consolidation of separate arbitrations would most likely require the parties’ agreement.
By contrast, Article 20 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations expressly provides that a tribunal, on the request of the parties to two or more arbitrations, may order the arbitration proceedings to be consolidated on terms that it considers just.
Choice of law
How is the substantive law of the dispute determined? Where the substantive law is unclear, how will a tribunal determine what it should be?
The substantive law may be agreed on. Absent an agreement between the parties on the applicable law, the tribunal will apply the law provided for in the rules on conflicts of law (Articles 28(1) and 28(2) of the Arbitration Law). Article 28(3) further stipulates that the tribunal may apply principles of justice and fairness in determining the dispute only if the parties have expressly permitted it to do so.
Under the QFC Arbitration Regulations, the parties are also free to designate the law applicable to the substance of the dispute. Absent such agreement, the QFC Tribunal must apply the law determined by the conflict of law rules that it deems applicable (Article 34 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Are there any provisions on the separability of arbitration agreements?
Article 16(1) of the Arbitration Law stipulates that an arbitration clause must be deemed an agreement independent from other clauses in a contract. The invalidity, expiry or termination of an underlying contract will not affect the arbitration clause provided for therein as long as the arbitration clause is itself valid.
The previous arbitration law in Qatar had not expressly recognised the principle of separability, although the principle had been recognised in the Qatari courts. The new provision in Article 16 closely mirrors the equivalent provision in the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Model Law.
The QFC Arbitration Regulations clearly state that an arbitration clause which forms part of a contract must be treated as an agreement independent of the other terms of the contract (Article 21(1) of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Are multiparty agreements recognised?
Both the Arbitration Law and the QFC Arbitration Regulations are silent with respect to multiparty arbitration agreements. However, as multiparty agreements are generally recognised under the Qatari law of contract, the law of contract should apply to multiparty arbitration agreements.
Criteria for arbitrators
Are there any restrictions?
Under Article 11(1) of the Arbitration Law, arbitrators may be chosen from the Arbitrators Registry maintained by the Ministry of Justice or from outside the list, provided that a chosen arbitrator:
- is of full legal eligibility and capacity;
- has not been finally convicted of a felony or a misdemeanour related to honesty and character; and
- is of good conduct and reputation.
There are no restrictions based on nationality, although Article 11(2) recognises that the parties may require a certain nationality. Further, the competent court or other authority (as applicable) must take into account the nationality of the arbitrator or those of the parties when charged with the appointment of a third arbitrator or sole arbitrator (Article 11(8) of the Arbitration Law).
‘Other authority’ is defined as an authority other than the competent court nominated by the parties to perform certain functions relating to assisting and supervising the arbitration. This would include, for example, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) or the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA).
The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Arbitration Regulations also provide that no person will be precluded from acting as an arbitrator based on nationality, unless otherwise agreed by the parties (Article 14(1) of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
What can be stipulated about the tribunal in the agreement?
The parties are free to agree on criteria for the arbitral tribunal. However, in terms of the number of arbitrators, the tribunal must consist of an odd number of arbitrators if there is to be more than one; otherwise, the arbitration will be void (Article 10 of the Arbitration Law).
Article 13(1) of the QFC Arbitration Regulations similarly states that the parties are free to determine the number of arbitrators, provided that there is an odd number.
Are there any default legal requirements as to the selection of a tribunal - for example, concerning the number of arbitrators or their characteristics?
Article 10 provides that the parties may agree on the number of arbitrators, provided that there is an odd number. If the parties are not agreed on the number, the tribunal will consist of three arbitrators by default.
The parties are also free to agree on the appointment procedure (Article 11(4)). In the absence of such agreement, Article 11(5) prescribes a default procedure.
The QFC Arbitration Regulations contain rules on the appointment of arbitrators if the parties have not reached an agreement in that regard (Article 14 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Challenging the appointment of an arbitrator
Can the appointment of an arbitrator be challenged? Can an arbitrator be disqualified? What is the procedure for this?
Under Article 12 of the Arbitration Law, challenges may be brought against an arbitrator if there are reasonable doubts in respect of his or her neutrality or independence, or where the arbitrator lacks the necessary qualifications agreed to by the parties. This is a more general approach than that which was taken under the previous legal regime, which had relied on the grounds which applied to the removal of a court judge.
Failing an agreement between the parties on the procedure for challenges, Article 13(1) of the Arbitration Law requires that challenges be presented in writing to the tribunal within 15 days of the challenging party becoming aware of the composition of the tribunal or the circumstances justifying the removal. If the other party objects to the challenge, or the arbitrator in question fails to withdraw, the challenge is referred to the competent court in Qatar or the other authority. The arbitration proceedings will be halted while the challenge is heard. The decision of the body to which the challenge is referred is final and may not be appealed.
Under the QFC Arbitration Regulations, a removal request must be submitted to the tribunal within 15 days of a party becoming aware of any relevant circumstances (Article 16(2) QFC Arbitration Regulations).
An arbitrator may be disqualified if circumstances exist that give rise to justifiable doubts as to his or her independence or impartiality, or if he or she does not possess the qualifications agreed by the parties. A party may only challenge an arbitrator which it appointed for reasons of which they were not aware at the time of appointment (Article 15 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
How should an objection to jurisdiction be raised?
An objection against jurisdiction must be raised with the tribunal no later than the date set for submitting the defence pleading by the respondent. If a party wishes to raise a plea during the arbitration proceedings that the tribunal is exceeding its jurisdiction during the proceedings, the matter must be put forward as the issues arise (Article 16(2) of the Arbitration Law).
If the tribunal dismisses the jurisdictional objection, its decision is subject to appeal to the competent court or the other authority within 30 days of notification of the dismissal. The decision on the appeal will be final (Article 16(3) of the Arbitration Law).
The QFC Arbitration Regulations expressly state that an objection to jurisdiction must be raised by the respondent no later than the submission of its defence. An objection that the arbitral tribunal has exceeded the scope of its authority must be raised as soon as the matter alleged to be beyond the scope of its authority is identified during the arbitral proceedings (Article 21(2) of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Replacement of an arbitrator
Why and how can an arbitrator be replaced?
Article 14(1) of the Arbitration Law allows a party to apply to the competent court or the other authority to terminate an arbitrator’s appointment in limited circumstances. Such a request will be successful where an arbitrator is unable or fails to carry out his or her mandate or drops out, leading to an unjustified delay in the proceedings. A substitute arbitrator must be appointed via the same appointment procedure that was used to appoint the arbitrator (Article 15(1) of the Arbitration Law).
The QFC Arbitration Regulations provide for the appointment of a substitute arbitrator if an arbitrator becomes unable to perform his or her functions or fails to act without undue delay and if:
- the arbitrator withdraws; or
- the arbitrator’s mandate is revoked on the agreement of the parties; or
- the QFC Tribunal decides on the termination of the mandate (Articles 17 and 18 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Powers and obligations
What powers and obligations do arbitrators have?
The tribunal must be impartial, treat the parties equally and provide each party with a complete and equal opportunity to present and put forward their claims, arguments and defences. The tribunal must also avoid any delays and unnecessary expenses to ensure a fair and swift means of resolution of the dispute. (Article 18 of the Arbitration Law).
Under the QFC Arbitration Regulations, the arbitral tribunal also has broad discretion in conducting the proceedings. The tribunal’s discretion expressly extends to the decision whether to hold oral hearings or conduct the proceedings based on documents and other materials (Article 30 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
The tribunal’s broad discretion is limited by its express obligation to treat the parties equally and to give each party a full opportunity to present its case (Article 24 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Liability of arbitrators
Are arbitrators immune from liability?
Under Article 11(11) of the Arbitration Law, an arbitrator cannot be held liable for exercising his or her duties as an arbitrator. However, an exception is made for bad faith, collusion or gross negligence, in which case an arbitrator does not have immunity from liability.
The QFC Arbitration Regulations also recognise immunity of arbitrators, unless their act or omission is shown to have been in bad faith (Article 19 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Communicating with the tribunal
How do the parties communicate with the tribunal?
Article 4 of the Arbitration Law addresses the delivery of written notices and communications and the dates on which notifications will be deemed received, although these are non-mandatory and may be varied by party agreement.
Similarly, Article 8 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations provide rules regarding the receipt of written communications, such as the dates on which emails will be deemed received and the proper addresses to which correspondence should be sent, but these may be varied if the parties so agree.
Is unanimous agreement of the tribunal required? If there is disagreement, does the will of the majority suffice? What are the implications of this?
Unanimity is not required, unless the parties agree otherwise. In the absence of any such agreement, decisions, orders and awards must be delivered by the majority of arbitrators. The presiding arbitrator may issue decisions on procedural issues with the permission of the parties or the other members of the arbitral tribunal (Article 29 of the Arbitration Law).
Under the QFC Arbitration Regulations, tribunal decisions will be made by a majority of the tribunal members. Questions of procedure may be decided by the presiding arbitrator if authorised to do so by the parties or by all members of the tribunal (Article 35 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Are there any disputes incapable of being referred to arbitration?
Public entities are specifically excluded from using arbitration to settle disputes between them under Article 2(2) of the Arbitration Law.
Article 2 also stipulates that any agreement to arbitrate for disputes concerning administrative contracts must be approved by the prime minister.
Further, under Article 7(2), disputes are not arbitrable if the parties would not be legally permitted to settle themselves. The categories are not defined, but it appears likely that personal or criminal disputes of a non-commercial nature fall within this category.
The QFC Arbitration Regulations provide for the setting aside of an arbitral award if the subject matter of the dispute cannot be settled by arbitration under QFC law (Article 41(2)(B)). The categories of such dispute are not defined but it appears likely that the same subject matter as in Qatar will be excluded (eg, personal or criminal disputes of a non-commercial nature).
Can the arbitrability of a dispute be challenged?
Yes. Under Article 33(3) of the Arbitration Law, an award can be annulled where the subject matter of the dispute is not arbitrable or is in conflict with public policy.
The QFC Arbitration Regulations provide for the setting aside of an arbitral award if the subject matter of the dispute is not capable of settlement by arbitration under QFC law or is not in the interest of the QFC (Article 41(2)(B) of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Jurisdiction and competence-competence
Is the principle of competence-competence recognised in your jurisdiction? Can a party to an arbitration ask the courts to determine an issue relating to the tribunal’s jurisdiction and competence?
Article 16(1) of the Arbitration Law explicitly recognises the principle of competence-competence. The previous arbitration regime contained no express provision on competence-competence, although the Qatari courts had acknowledged that arbitral tribunals were empowered to rule on their own jurisdiction and competence.
The QFC Arbitration Regulations expressly recognise the competence of the arbitral tribunal to rule on its jurisdiction (Article 21 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Starting an arbitration proceeding
What is needed to commence arbitration?
Article 21 of the Arbitration Law stipulates that the arbitration proceedings will commence on the day on which the respondent receives the request for referral of the dispute to arbitration, unless the parties agree otherwise.
The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Arbitration Regulations (Article 27) also presume that the arbitration has commenced once the respondent receives a referral to arbitration.
Are there any limitation periods for the commencement of arbitration?
If Qatari law applies to the parties’ underlying relationship, any arbitration proceedings commenced after the applicable limitation period provided will be time barred pursuant to Qatari 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 free to agree their procedural rules for the arbitration. The rules for the procedure contained in the Arbitration Law are general. Article 23 provides for the submission of a statement of claim and a statement of defence.
Article 25(1) of the QFC Arbitration Regulations also gives the parties the power to determine their own procedural rules by agreement.
Are dissenting opinions permitted under the law of your jurisdiction?
The Arbitration Law does not prohibit dissenting opinions, and there is no reason to assume that an arbitrator is not entitled to give a dissenting award given that an award by a tribunal is valid by majority. Article 31(1) of the Arbitration Law requires that the refusal to sign an award be stated in the award.
The situation in the QFC is similar: the QFC Arbitration Regulations do not prohibit dissenting opinions, and there is no reason to assume that an arbitrator is not entitled to give a dissenting award. Article 37(1) of the QFC Arbitration Regulations requires that the refusal to sign an award be stated in the award.
Can local courts intervene in proceedings?
Local courts can intervene in proceedings in limited circumstances – for example:
- Article 9 – the competent judge may order interim measures in situations where the arbitral tribunal does not have jurisdiction or is incapable to act effectively;
- Article 11 – the parties can request the assistance of the competent court regarding the appointment of arbitrators;
- Articles 13(1) and 13(2) – if an arbitrator against whom a challenge has been brought fails to withdraw, or the other party objects to the challenge, the challenge can be referred to the competent court;
- Article 14(1) – the parties can request the competent court to terminate an arbitrator’s appointment where the arbitrator is unable or ceases to perform his or her mandate;
- Article 16(3) – the competent court may hear appeals on the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal if the tribunal has dismissed the objection to jurisdiction; and
- Article 27(1) – the tribunal may request assistance in obtaining evidence from the competent court.
Under the QFC Arbitration Regulations, assistance may be sought from the local courts and the QFC Tribunal (being the body in the QFC to administer and enforce QFC commercial laws and assist in the conduct of arbitrations under the QFC Arbitration Regulations). For example, 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?
With respect to sole arbitrators, either party may apply to the competent court to assist with the appointment where the parties have failed to agree on an arbitrator within 30 days after the written notice of arbitration has been served (Article 11(5)(a) of the Arbitration Law).
In case of a three-member tribunal, if either party has failed to appoint their nominated arbitrator within 30 days of receiving their request to do so, or where the parties’ nominated arbitrators have failed to appoint the third arbitrator within 30 days from the later date of their respective appointments, the competent court can make the appointment (Article 11(5)(b)).
Further, where the parties have agreed on an appointment procedure, under Article 11(6), either party may ask the competent court to carry out the necessary procedure where:
- a party has failed to take an action provided for under the agreed procedure;
- the parties (or the two arbitrators) have failed to reach the necessary agreement; or
- a third party has failed to fulfil any task assigned to it.
If the above circumstances arise, the QFC Tribunal (not the Qatari courts) can secure the appointment (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 arbitral tribunal will continue with the proceedings if the respondent fails to submit its defence pleading, but such failure will not be deemed an acceptance of the claims by the respondent. Where a party fails to attend a hearing or provide any evidence, documents or other information required, the tribunal may also continue the proceedings and resolve the dispute based on the evidence presented (Articles 25(2) and 25(3) of the Arbitration Law).
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 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?
The Arbitration Law and the QFC Arbitration Regulations do not address this issue. However, under the Qatari Civil Code, a contract is binding only on the contracting parties and their successors. Therefore, it is likely that an arbitral tribunal may only assume jurisdiction over third parties 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 seems to remain 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?
The parties are free to determine the language unless their arbitration agreement precludes them from doing so. Failing agreement, the tribunal will decide on the language (or languages) to be used (Article 22(1) of the Arbitration Law).
The parties are free to agree on the seat inside or outside Qatar. Failing agreement, the tribunal will determine the seat, paying due attention to the circumstances of the dispute and how convenient the proposed location is to the parties (Article 20(1) of the Arbitration Law).
The parties are free to agree on the language and the seat of the 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 for taking evidence is left to the agreement of the parties and, absent any such agreement, to the discretion of the tribunal (Articles 19(1) and 19(2) of the Arbitration Law).
Article 25 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations provides that the parties are free to agree on the procedure in the arbitration and that, absent any such agreement, the tribunal can conduct the proceedings in such manner as it considers appropriate. The tribunal can also determine the admissibility, relevance, materiality and weight of any evidence.
What kinds of evidence are acceptable?
The Arbitration Law specifically envisages documentary evidence, fact witness evidence and expert evidence, both by party-appointed and tribunal-appointed experts (Articles 23(4), 24(1) and 26). Article 24(2) of the Arbitration Law now provides that witnesses and experts will be heard without swearing an oath.
The QFC Arbitration Regulations specifically envisage documentary evidence and tribunal-appointed experts (Articles 30 and 32), but this does not mean that other forms of evidence are excluded.
Is confidentiality ensured?
The award may not be published without the consent of both parties (Article 31(8) of the Arbitration Law). However, there is no express provision protecting the confidentiality of the proceedings more generally. However, the parties can agree that the arbitration will be kept confidential.
The QFC Arbitration Regulations do not provide for the confidentiality of arbitration proceedings and do not address the publication of awards. However, the parties can agree that the arbitration will be kept confidential.
Can information in arbitral proceedings be disclosed in subsequent proceedings?
If the subsequent arbitration is between the same parties, it is safe to assume that information in arbitral proceedings can be disclosed. However, given the confidentiality provision in Article 31(8) of the Arbitration Law, this should not be the case where the parties are not identical.
There are no provisions on confidentiality in the QFC Arbitration Regulations, so it is possible that where details of an award published there would be nothing to stop parties to another QFC arbitration or court proceedings from referring to them.
What ethical codes and other professional standards, if any, apply to counsel and arbitrators conducting proceedings in your jurisdiction?
Qatari Advocacy Law 23/2006 sets out ethical and professional rules that govern the conduct of lawyers admitted to the 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.
Estimation & allocation
How are the costs of arbitration proceedings estimated and allocated?
Article 31(4) of the Arbitration Law provides that the award will state the costs of the arbitration and which party must pay such costs but is silent on the principles that the tribunal should apply in determining and allocating costs. This is therefore in the tribunal’s discretion.
The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Arbitration Regulations also provide for the QFC Tribunal to have discretion in this regard (Article 38 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Security for costs
Can the national court or tribunal order security for costs under the law in your jurisdiction?
Although Article 17 of the Arbitration Law now expressly lists what interim measures a tribunal can take, it does not expressly allow for the ordering of security for costs. However, it allows for all provisional measures that are dictated by the nature of the dispute, including measures providing means of preserving assets out of which a subsequent award may be satisfied. The Arbitration Law uses the same wording as the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Model Law in that regard. These general powers should be sufficiently wide to allow for security for costs.
The QFC Arbitration Regulations, which list the types of interim measure that a party can request, do not expressly allow a tribunal to order security for costs. For the same reasons as set out in the context of the Qatari Arbitration Law, it appears that these general powers are sufficiently wide to allow for security for costs (Articles 22 and 23 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
What legal requirements are there for recognition of an award? Must reasons be given for the award? Does the award need to be reviewed by any other body?
Recognition of awards
Recognition of an award may be refused only in the limited circumstances listed in Article 35 of the Arbitration Law. These are the same reasons that allow the refusal of the enforcement of an award and will therefore be considered below when discussing the enforcement of awards.
Giving reasons for arbitral awards
The general rule is that reasons for the award should be given; however, reasons need not be given where:
- the parties agree otherwise;
- the tribunal issues a consent award; or
- the applicable legal rules do not require the statement of reasons (Article 31(2) of the Arbitration Law).
Review by other bodies
The award does not have to be reviewed by another body. Although an electronic copy should be sent to the Ministry of Justice (Article 31(11) of the Arbitration Law), this is for information purposes only.
Under the Article 37 of the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Arbitration Regulations, an award must:
- be made in writing;
- be signed by the arbitrators;
- state the reasons on which it is based; and
- state the date and seat of the arbitration.
It is unnecessary to include a copy of the arbitration agreement and the award does not need to be reviewed by any other body.
Timeframe for delivery
Are there any time limits on delivery of the award?
In the absence of an agreement between the parties, the final award should be issued within one month of the conclusion of the proceedings, although the tribunal may extend this time limit by up to one month (Article 31(5) of the Arbitration Law).
The QFC Arbitration Regulations contains no time limit for the issuance of the award.
Does the law impose limits on the available remedies? Are some remedies not enforceable by the court?
Neither the Arbitration Law nor the QFC Arbitration Regulations impose restrictions on the types of remedy available in arbitration. Remedies are determined by the substantive law. If Qatari law applies to the substance of the dispute, Qatari law provides for full compensation for the damage that the claimant has suffered. Contractual liquidated damages are permissible. However, an arbitral tribunal can reduce liquidated damages which are exaggerated or if the obligation has been performed in part (Article 266 of the Civil and Commercial Code). Punitive damages are not recognised under Qatari law.
What interim measures are available? Will local courts issue interim measures pending constitution of the tribunal?
The new Arbitration Law now expressly lists the powers that a tribunal must take interim measures. Under Article 17(1), a tribunal may take measures to:
- maintain or restore the status quo;
- prevent the occurrence of current or imminent damage that would prejudice the arbitration or prevent the adoption of procedures that might result in such damage or prejudice;
- preserve the assets by means of which later awards may be executed; and
- preserve evidence that could be important or material to the determination of the dispute.
In terms of the local courts’ powers to issue interim measures, Article 9 provides that the competent judge may order interim or precautionary measures before the commencement of proceedings or during the proceedings, if the tribunal does not have jurisdiction or is incapable of acting effectively at the time.
The QFC Arbitration Regulations expressly confer on tribunals the power to issue interim measures to maintain or restore the status quo, preserve assets to satisfy a subsequent award or preserve evidence (Article 22).
Can interest be awarded?
Sharia law, which is the primary source of law in Qatar, generally prohibits the recovery of interest. The Qatari courts have therefore rejected the enforcement of awards granting interest on the grounds that it is a violation of public policy.
However, a party can ask a tribunal for compensation for its financing charges. To prove its entitlement, it would have to prove the amount of actual financing charges it has incurred, typically with the assistance of a quantum expert, and could not rely on a pre-determined rate of interest.
A party also cannot ask for damages or interest on the sums awarded in the award until the date of payment. Interest is impermissible under Qatari law, and damages cannot be proven during the arbitration as they will not yet have incurred.
By contrast, under the QFC Arbitration Regulations, tribunals may award interest on the sums it directs to be paid (Article 38 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
At what rate?
As regards arbitration in the QFC, if the parties have agreed that the QFC Contract Regulations govern their contract, the QFC Contract Regulations provide that the rate of interest will be the average bank short-term lending rate to prime borrowers prevailing in Qatar (Article 104(2) of the QFC Contract Regulations).
Is the award final and binding?
Under the new Arbitration Law, awards are final and binding. Recourse against an award can be made only by application for setting aside the award on the narrow grounds set out in Article 33(2). This is one of the major improvements of the Arbitration Law compared to the previous arbitration regime under the Civil and Commercial Code, which had separate processes to appeal, review or set aside an award on much wider grounds. The current regime is aligned to that of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law.
The QFC Arbitration Regulations also provide that recourse against an award may be made only by applying to set aside the award and list six limited grounds to do so (Article 41).
What if there are any mistakes?
The parties have seven days from the receipt of an arbitral award to request the correction of any material computational or typographical errors or seek an interpretation of specific issues. If the tribunal considers the request justified, it will make the correction and interpretation within seven days of receipt of the request. The tribunal can also correct any errors of its own volition, provided that it gives notice to the parties, within seven days of the award’s issue (Article 32 of the Arbitration Law).
The QFC Arbitration Regulations also provide for the possibility of correcting any computational, clerical, typographical or other similar errors (Article 40 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Can the parties exclude by agreement any right of appeal or other recourse that the law of your jurisdiction may provide?
Both the Arbitration Law and the QFC Arbitration Regulations are silent on the question of waiver and do not expressly allow the parties to limit the possibilities of challenging an award by agreement. Whether parties can limit the possibility to set aside an award appears not to have been tested by the courts. However, in line with case law in other UNCITRAL Model Law jurisdictions, it appears likely that there would be limits to such an agreement, and that such agreement should not conflict with public policy and mandatory law.
What is the procedure for challenging awards?
An application must be made to the competent court within one month of receipt of the award. However, the parties may agree in writing to extend that time limit (Article 33(4) of the Arbitration Law).
Under the QFC Arbitration Regulations, an application for setting aside an award may only be made to the QFC Tribunal. Such application must be made within three months from the date that the party making such request received the award. The time limit does not apply if the setting aside request was filed based on a violation of QFC public policy (Article 41 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
On what grounds can parties appeal an award?
The only grounds on which a party can apply to set aside an award are set out in Article 33(2) of the Arbitration Law, which mirror those in Article 34(2) of the UNCITRAL Model Law:
- a party to the arbitration agreement did not have capacity to enter into the arbitration agreement or the arbitration agreement is invalid;
- the party making the application was not given proper notice of the appointment of an arbitrator, or of the proceedings, or was unable to present its defence for any other reasons beyond its control;
- the award decides matters which go beyond the scope of the arbitration agreement; or
- the composition or appointment of the tribunal, or the proceedings, were not in accordance with the agreement of the parties.
Further, the competent court will set aside the arbitral award on its own motion if the subject matter of the dispute is not capable of settlement by arbitration or the arbitral award violates the public policy of Qatar (Article 33(3) of the Arbitration Law).
The QFC Arbitration Regulations provide that recourse against an award may only be made by application for setting aside the award. It lists six limited grounds on which an award may be set aside (Article 41 QFC Arbitration Regulations). These mirror the grounds for setting aside an award under Article 33(2) of the Arbitration Law. However, whereas the Arbitration Law provides that an award should not violate the public policy of Qatar, the QFC Arbitration Regulations provide that an award should violate the ‘interest’ of the QFC.
What steps can be taken to enforce the award if there is a failure to comply?
The party seeking enforcement should apply for enforcement to the competent court, along with a copy of the arbitration agreement and the award, accompanied by a certified Arabic translation (Article 34(2) of the Arbitration Law).
A party can resist enforcement on the narrow circumstances listed in Article 35(1) of the Arbitration Law, which are the same grounds that a party can rely on to challenge an award. In addition, a party can resist enforcement, if the award has been set aside or enforcement has been stayed in the country in which the award was issued or in accordance with the law thereof (Article 35(1)(e)).
Further, the competent court will refuse enforcement on its own motion if the subject matter of the dispute is incapable of settlement by arbitration or the arbitral award violates the public policy of Qatar (Article 35(2)).
The QFC Tribunal has sole and exclusive jurisdiction to hear applications for the enforcement of an award in the QFC under Article 42 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations. To seek enforcement of an award, a party should supply a duly authenticated original or copy of the award and the arbitration agreement. Article 43 lists the grounds based on which enforcement can be denied, which mirror those in the Arbitration Law.
Can awards be enforced in local courts?
Applications for enforcement can be made to the competent court.
No, the QFC Tribunal has exclusive jurisdiction over applications for the enforcement of a QFC award.
How enforceable is the award internationally?
This depends on whether one of conventions to which Qatar is a signatory applies, and whether that convention addresses enforcement. Qatar is a signatory to the New York Convention. The enforceability of an award rendered in Qatar in international jurisdictions will therefore depend primarily on whether those jurisdictions have acceded to the New York Convention.
Where the Riyadh Convention applies, recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards is possible without a review of the subject matter of the underlying dispute if the award does not violate public policy, morality or the principles of Sharia law (Article 37 of the Riyadh Convention).
To what extent might a state or state entity successfully raise a defence of state or sovereign immunity at the enforcement stage?
Qatari legislation is silent regarding the question of defence of state or sovereign immunity of state entities preventing the execution of an award. However, there appears to be no indication that state immunity does not apply.
In the reverse situation, whereby Qatar claimed sovereign immunity when an International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) award rendered against it was sought to be enforced in France, in a July 6 2000 decision, the French Court of Cassation did not allow Qatar to claim sovereign immunity. It was held that an arbitration agreement referring to the ICC rules, which provided that the parties had to comply with all awards, amounted to a waiver of immunity from execution. However, the Court of Cassation has since adopted a different approach whereby a state can claim immunity if it has not expressly waived immunity of execution.
Are there any other bases on which an award may be challenged, and if so, by what?
No, the above represent the only grounds on which an award may be challenged.
How enforceable are foreign arbitral awards in your jurisdiction?
Foreign awards may be enforced in Qatar under the New York Convention, the Riyadh Convention or the Gulf Convention. The New York Convention provides for recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards.
The courts had previously held that all awards issued in Qatar needed to be issued in the name of His Highness the Emir of Qatar, but this position has since been overturned by the Qatari Court of Cassation. This is also not a requirement of the new Arbitration Law.
Will an award that has been set aside by the courts in the seat of arbitration be enforced in your jurisdiction?
The Arbitration Law expressly allows the competent court to refuse the enforcement of a foreign award on the basis that it was set aside or suspended at the seat of the arbitration (Article 35(1)(e) of the Arbitration Law).
The QFC Arbitration Regulations expressly allow the QFC Tribunal to refuse the enforcement of a foreign award on the basis that it was set aside or suspended at the seat of the arbitration (Article 43 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).
Rules and restrictions
Are there rules or restrictions on third-party funders?
Neither the Arbitration Law nor the Qatar Financial Centre Arbitration Regulations contain any provisions regarding third-party funding of arbitration proceedings. However, there appears to be no reason to assume that third-party funding is not possible.
Class-action or group arbitration
Is there a concept in your jurisdiction providing for class-action arbitration or group arbitration? If so, are there any limitations to the arbitrability of such claims or requirements that must be met before such claims may be arbitrated?
No, there are no specific provisions in either the Arbitration Law or the Qatar Financial Centre Arbitration Regulations which envisage the conduct of class-action arbitration.
Are there any hot topics or trends emerging in arbitration in your jurisdiction?
The new Arbitration Law issued in 2017 was an important element of Qatar’s policy to promote international arbitration.