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Legal framework

National arbitration laws

What legislation applies to arbitration in your jurisdiction?

Arbitration in Qatar is governed by the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure, promulgated by Law 13/1990. Articles 190 to 210 address arbitration, and Articles 379 to 383 address the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards.

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 separate from the Qatari legal system. The QFC Arbitration Regulations apply where the QFC has been agreed as the seat of the arbitration (Article 6 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).

Mandatory laws

Are there any mandatory laws?

Arbitrations with a seat in Qatar and the enforcement of arbitral awards in Qatar are subject to rules of public policy.

New York Convention

Is your country a signatory to the New York Convention? If so, what is the date of entry into force?

Qatar acceded to the New York Convention on December 30 2002. The convention entered into force on March 30 2003.

Are there any reservations to the general obligations of the convention?

Qatar made no reservation against any article in 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 party to the Convention on the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States of 1965 (ICSID Convention), which came into force in Qatar on January 20 2011. As of January 2017, Qatar has signed 53 bilateral investment treaties and bilateral investment promotion and protection agreements, 22 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 – namely:

  • the Convention on Judicial Cooperation between States of the Arab League of 1983;
  • the Arab Convention on Commercial Arbitration of 1987; and
  • the Gulf Council Convention for the Enforcement of Court Judgements, Letters of Rogatory and Judicial Notices of 1996.

UNCITRAL

Has your jurisdiction adopted the UNCITRAL Model Law?

The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure is not based on the UNCITRAL Model Law, but the QFC Arbitration Regulations are.

Reform

Are there any impending plans to reform the arbitration laws in your jurisdiction?

Qatar is expected to promulgate a new arbitration law based on the 2006 UNCITRAL Model Law soon. The draft law is intended to modernise the existing arbitration regime set out in the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure. For instance, notably, the draft law is expected to strengthen the finality of an arbitral award by removing the possibility of appeal. The draft law is also expected to recognise expressly the principle of competence-competence and the separability of arbitration agreements. It is further expected to include a provision protecting the confidentiality of awards. Other procedural matters are also intended to be clarified, such as the possibility for parties to seek interim measures from an arbitral tribunal. The QFC Arbitration Regulations will not be affected by the draft law.

Arbitration agreements

Validity

What are the validity requirements for an arbitration agreement?

An arbitration agreement must be evidenced in writing, and may be made only by parties which are legally entitled to an adjudication of any of their disputed rights and obligations. The subject of the dispute must be specified in the arbitration agreement or during the arbitration (Article 190 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). The requirement that an arbitration agreement be evidenced in writing has been interpreted restrictively to exclude, for example, an arbitration agreement evidenced by electronic messages. However, the draft arbitration law is expected to adopt a wider concept of ‘writing’, and to include the possibility for an exchange of electronic messages or other means of communication which provide a record of an arbitration agreement. It is also expected to provide that an arbitration clause may be incorporated by reference into another document.

The written requirement under the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Arbitration Regulations is much broader than under the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure and includes, for example, emails and telegrams and arbitration agreements which have been incorporated by reference (Article 10 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).

Special requirements apply with respect to public works and public procurement contracts. The Law on Tenders and Bids (24/2015) requires approval of the Ministry of Finance on recommendation of the head of the relevant government body for the contract in question (Article 34).

Further, where an agent of a party enters into an arbitration agreement, a special power of attorney is required (Article 721 of the Civil Code). 

Enforcement of agreements

How are arbitration agreements enforced in your jurisdiction? What is the attitude of the national courts towards arbitration agreements?

National courts have given full effect to arbitration agreements. Any claim brought before local courts in violation of a valid arbitration agreement is deemed inadmissible (Article 192 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). 

Consolidation

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?

The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure does not expressly address the consolidation of proceedings. Subject to any applicable institutional rules, consolidation of various arbitrations would require the parties’ agreement.

By contrast, the QFC Arbitration Regulations expressly provide that a tribunal, on the request of the parties to two or more arbitrations, may order the arbitration proceedings to be consolidated on terms it considers just (Article 20 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).

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 parties are free to agree on the law applicable to the substance of the dispute. In case the parties have not chosen an applicable law, the laws of Qatar will apply to any arbitration seated in Qatar (Article 198 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).

Under the QFC Arbitration Regulations, the parties are free to designate the law applicable to the substance of the dispute. Absent such agreement, the tribunal must apply the law determined by the conflict of laws rules it deems applicable (Article 34 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).

Separability

Are there any provisions on the separability of arbitration agreements?

The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure does not refer to the separability of arbitration agreements. However, Qatari courts have confirmed in several instances the autonomy of arbitration clauses.

The QFC Arbitration Regulations clearly state that an arbitration clause which forms part of a contract must be treated as an agreement independent from the other terms of the contract (Article 21(1) of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).

Multiparty agreements

Are multiparty agreements recognised?

Both the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure and the QFC Arbitration Regulations are silent with respect to multiparty arbitration agreements. However, as multiparty agreements are recognised under Qatari law generally, the same should apply to multiparty arbitration agreements. 

Arbitral tribunal

Criteria for arbitrators

Are there any restrictions?

Under the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure, an arbitrator may not be a minor, legally incapacitated or a person deprived of his or her civil rights because of a criminal offence or bankruptcy (unless he or she has been rehabilitated) (Article 193 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). However, there are no restrictions with respect to nationality, religion or gender.

In this respect, the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Arbitration Regulations provide that no person can be precluded from acting as an arbitrator on the basis of his or her nationality, unless otherwise agreed by the parties (Article 14(1) of the QFC Arbitration Regulations). 

Contractual stipulations

What can be stipulated about the tribunal in the agreement?

Both under the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure and the QFC Arbitration Regulations, the parties are free to determine the number of arbitrators and the method for their appointment. However, if there are several arbitrators, the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure stipulates that the number thereof must be, at all times, an odd number (Article 193 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). It appears that the parties can also include provisions on nationality, religion or gender under both the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure and the QFC Arbitration Regulations.

Default requirements

Are there any default legal requirements as to the selection of a tribunal - for example, concerning the number of arbitrators or their characteristics?

The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure contains no default requirements if the parties’ agreement is silent on this issue. The QFC Arbitration Regulations contain rules on the appointment procedure of the 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 the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure, arbitrators may be removed by agreement of the parties or following a court order. A request for removal must be made within five days of the date of notification of the arbitrator’s appointment. The grounds for removal must occur or emerge after the arbitration agreement was entered into. These grounds are the same as for the removal of a court judge, which are specifically listed in the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure (Articles 98, 100 and 194), including if:

  • the arbitrator is a relative or in-law of one of the parties up to the fourth generation;
  • the arbitrator or his or her spouse has outstanding litigation with one of the parties or with his or her spouse;
  • the arbitrator is:
    • a personal agent, guardian, trustee or presumptive heir of one of the parties; or
    • related by blood or kinship up to the fourth generation with the guardian of one of the parties, his or her guardian or a director, manager or partner of a litigant company and such director, manager or partner has a personal interest in the suit;
  • the arbitrator’s spouse, relative, in-law, agent, guardian or trustee has an interest in the suit;
  • the arbitrator:
    • delivered a legal opinion, pleaded on behalf of one of the parties in the suit or wrote about the suit before joining the judiciary; or
    • previously heard the case as a judge, acted as an expert or arbitrator or gave evidence therein; or
  • a blood or kinship relationship up to the fourth generation exists between the arbitrator and one of the judges sitting with him or her on the bench or with one of the parties' representatives or attorneys.

Under the draft arbitration law, a request for removal may be submitted to the arbitral tribunal. The five-day time limit is expected to be abandoned, with no specific time limit to be included.

Under the QFC Arbitration Regulations, a removal request must be submitted to the arbitral tribunal within 15 days of becoming aware of any relevant circumstances (Article 16(2) of the 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 challenge an arbitrator appointed by it for reasons of which the party became aware of after the appointment (Article 15 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).

Jurisdictional objections

How should an objection to jurisdiction be raised?

The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure does not expressly address objections to the jurisdiction of an arbitral tribunal. However, it is recommended that a party raise any jurisdictional objection before raising any other substantive defences so as not to waive its right to object to jurisdiction (as would be required in litigation proceedings in a Qatari court under Article 70 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).

The QFC Arbitration Regulations expressly state that an objection to jurisdiction must be raised by the respondent no later than the submission of the defence. An objection claiming that the arbitral tribunal 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?

Under the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure, if an arbitrator withdraws or is dismissed or prevented from acting due to an encumbrance, the court with original jurisdiction to consider the dispute may appoint the arbitrator at the request of any of the parties (Article 195 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).

The QFC Arbitration Regulations provide for the appointment of a substitute arbitrator in the event that an arbitrator:

  • becomes unable to perform his or her functions or fails to act without undue delay;
  • withdraws from office; or
  • has his or her mandate revoked on agreement of the parties (Articles 17 and 18 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).

The QFC Tribunal will take the necessary measures in that regard.

Powers and obligations

What powers and obligations do arbitrators have?

The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure requires arbitrators to accept their appointment in writing unless they are appointed by the court. After acceptance of arbitration, they may not withdraw from their appointment without good reason; otherwise, they may be held liable for compensation (Article 194 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). Once an arbitrator is appointed, he or she is obliged to render an award within the timeframe provided for in the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure. The tribunal has broad discretion in conducting the arbitration.

In addition, under the QFC Arbitration Regulations, the arbitral tribunal has broad discretion in conducting the proceedings. The tribunal’s discretion expressly extends to deciding whether to hold oral hearings and whether the proceedings must be conducted on the basis of 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). Contrary to the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure, the QFC Arbitration Regulations do not provide for a timeframe for the issuance of the award. 

Liability of arbitrators

Are arbitrators immune from liability?

The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure provides no immunity for arbitrators. The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure expressly provides that an arbitrator may be held liable for compensation if he or she withdraws from a reference without good reason (Article 194 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).

By contrast, the QFC Arbitration Regulations recognise the immunity of arbitrators, unless their act or omission is shown to have been made in bad faith (Article 19 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).

Communicating with the tribunal

How do the parties communicate with the tribunal?

No specific provisions in the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure or the QFC Arbitration Regulations address means of communication between the tribunal and the parties; thus, the parties can agree on the means of communications with the tribunal. The QFC Arbitration Regulations merely state when a communication is considered to have been received (Article 8 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).

Reaching decisions

Is unanimous agreement of the tribunal required? If there is disagreement, does the will of the majority suffice? What are the implications of this?

Tribunal decisions need not be unanimous under the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure. The decision of an arbitral tribunal must be made by a majority of the arbitrators. If one or more arbitrators refuses to sign the decision, the refusal must be recorded. The decision will be valid if signed by the majority of arbitrators (Article 202 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).

In addition, in arbitrations under the QFC Arbitration Regulations, the tribunal’s decision will be made by a majority of the tribunal members. Questions of procedure may be decided by the presiding arbitrator if authorised by the parties or all members of the tribunal (Article 35 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).

Arbitrability

Are there any disputes incapable of being referred to arbitration?

The following categories of dispute are not arbitrable (Articles 190 and 198 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure):

  • matters that are not capable of being settled amicably (these include matters related to personal status, including the validity or termination of marriage, incapacity, guardianship and inheritance);
  • matters related to public policy (these include disputes involving corruption and illicit payments to the public administration, activities involving criminal liability, immoral activities and disputes involving public rights).

The QFC Arbitration Regulations provide for the setting aside of an award if the subject matter of the dispute is not capable of settlement by arbitration under QFC law (Article 41(2)(B) of the QFC Arbitration Regulations). Although the law does not expressly define these categories of dispute, it appears likely that the same restrictions on arbitrability apply as under the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure.

Can the arbitrability of a dispute be challenged?

The party challenging the arbitrability of a dispute can ask the tribunal to dismiss the claim. If the tribunal renders an award where the dispute is not arbitrable, the nullification of the award can be requested (Article 207 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).

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?

The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure does not expressly recognise the competence-competence principle with respect to arbitral tribunals. However, Qatari courts have acknowledged that arbitral tribunals are empowered to rule on their own jurisdiction and competence. The draft arbitration law is expected to grant an express power to arbitral tribunals to rule on their jurisdiction.

The QFC Arbitration Regulations expressly recognise the competence of arbitral tribunals to rule on their own jurisdiction (Article 21 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).

Arbitral proceedings

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.

Limitation periods

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).  

Procedural rules

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.

Dissenting arbitrators

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.

Judicial assistance

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).

Third parties

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).

Gathering evidence

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).

Confidentiality

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.

Ethical codes

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. 

Costs

Estimation & allocation

How are the costs of arbitration proceedings estimated and allocated?

The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure does not expressly provide for cost estimation and allocation. The awarding of costs is consequently at the discretion of the arbitral tribunal, unless the parties or the institutional rules provide otherwise.

The Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Arbitration Regulations also provide for the discretion of the tribunal in that 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?

The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure does not provide for security for costs. Therefore, they may not be available for arbitrations seated in Qatar.

The QFC Arbitration Regulations, which list the types of interim measure that a part can request, equally do not allow a tribunal to order security for costs. It allows only for the limited possibility to require the applicant party to provide security in connection with interim measures of protection (Articles 22 and 23 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).

The award

Requirements

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?

An arbitral award must be made in writing and include:

  • a copy of the arbitration agreement;
  • a brief summary of the claims of the parties and their supporting documents;
  • the reasons for the decision;
  • the text of the decision;
  • the date of the issuance of the award;
  • the place of the issuance of the award; and
  • the signature of the arbitrators (Article 202 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).

After some uncertainty in this regard, in a March 25 2014 decision, the Qatari Court of Cassation expressly stated that the enforcement of awards is not subject to the requirement that they be issued in the name of His Highness Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. In respect of awards rendered in Qatar, the award must be filed in the registry of the court with original jurisdiction over the dispute within 15 days of its issuance (Article 203 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).

Under 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 (Article 37 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).

It is therefore unnecessary to include a copy of the arbitration agreement. 

Timeframe for delivery

Are there any time limits on delivery of the award?

Under the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure, absent any agreement by the parties, the arbitrators must issue a decision within three months from the date of their acceptance of the reference to arbitration. If the arbitral tribunal fails to issue its decision within that timeframe, any party may refer the dispute to the court with original jurisdiction to hear the dispute in order to either extend the time limit, appoint other arbitrators or settle the dispute itself (Article 197 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).

The draft arbitration law is expected to increase the time limit to 12 months, which the arbitral tribunal can extend for six months. If the tribunal fails to render the award within the time limit, the draft law is expected to provide that any party may refer to the president of the court with original jurisdiction over the dispute to order an extension or termination of the arbitration. In the latter case, any party may refer to the court with original jurisdiction to settle the dispute.

The QFC Arbitration Regulations, by contrast, contain no time limit for the issuance of the award.

Remedies

Does the law impose limits on the available remedies? Are some remedies not enforceable by the court?

Neither the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure nor the QFC Arbitration Regulations impose restrictions on the types of remedy available in arbitration, as long as they are not contrary to public policy. As regards arbitrations under the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure, this is problematic in relation to interest.

Remedies are determined by the substantive law. Where Qatari law applies to the substance of the dispute, it provides for full compensation for the damage that the claimant has suffered. Contractual liquidated damages are permissible. However, an arbitral tribunal is entitled to reduce liquidated damages which are exaggerated or if the obligation has been performed in part (Article 266 of the Civil Code). Punitive damages are not known under Qatari law.

What interim measures are available? Will local courts issue interim measures pending constitution of the tribunal?

Tribunals must seek the local courts’ assistance to perform the necessary judicial procedures for the settlement of the dispute and punish a witness who does not appear. In such cases, arbitrators must refer the request to the court with original jurisdiction over the dispute (Articles 199 and 201 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). It is unclear whether arbitral tribunals may order interim measures in other cases. The draft arbitration law is thus expected to confer on arbitral tribunals the power to grant interim measures.

The QFC Arbitration Regulations expressly confer the power on tribunals to issue interim measures in order to:

  • maintain or restore the status quo;
  • preserve assets to satisfy a subsequent award; or
  • preserve evidence (Article 22 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations).

Interest

Can interest be awarded?

Sharia law, which is the primary source of law in Qatar, generally prohibits the recovery of interest. Qatari courts have therefore rejected the enforcement of awards granting interest on the ground of a violation of public policy. However, a party can ask a tribunal for compensation for its financing charges. To prove its entitlement, the party must prove the amount of actual financing charges that it has incurred, typically with the assistance of a quantum expert, and cannot 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 not permissible under Qatari law, and damages cannot be proven in the arbitration as they are not yet incurred when the award is issued.

By contrast, under the QFC Arbitration Regulations, arbitral tribunals may award interest on the sums it directs to be paid (Article 38 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations). 

At what rate?

See the question above as regards the situation under the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure.

As regards arbitration in the QFC, if the parties have agreed that the QFC Contract Regulations govern their contract, these 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).

Finality

The award is final and binding on the parties, subject to any right of the parties to:

  • set aside the award (Articles 207-209 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure);
  • appeal the award (Article 205 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure); and
  • review the award (Article 206 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).

The grounds of appeal are wide, and there has been much criticism of them for this reason, as they do not follow the narrow approach taken in the New York Convention or the UNCITRAL Model Law. The draft arbitration law is expected to remove the possibility to appeal awards.

By contrast, the QFC Arbitration Regulations provide that recourse against an award may be made only by application for setting aside the award. It lists six limited grounds on the basis of which an award may be set aside (Article 41).

What if there are any mistakes?

The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure does not expressly provide for the possibility for parties to seek the correction of mistakes. However, the parties can appeal the award to the court with original jurisdiction over the dispute; the court may then make the necessary corrections. However, the draft arbitration law is expected to address corrections to arbitral awards. 

By contrast, the QFC Arbitration Regulations provide for the possibility of correcting any:

  • errors in computation;
  • clerical or typographical errors; or
  • errors of similar nature (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?

The parties can agree to waive their right to appeal an arbitral award (Article 205 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). They can waive only the right to have the award set aside once the award is issued (Article 208 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). Any agreement to waive the right to have the award set aside before the award is issued will thus be considered null and void.

The QFC Arbitration Regulations provide that a party is deemed to have waived its right to object if it proceeds with the arbitration without stating an objection, despite knowing that a provision of the QFC Arbitration Regulations has not been met (Article 9 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations). In these circumstances, a party could not rely on such non-compliance as a recourse against the award. Otherwise, the QFC Arbitration Regulations remain silent on the question of waiver and do not expressly allow the parties to limit the possibilities of challenging an award by agreement. The question of whether the parties can limit the possibility to set aside an award appears not to have been tested by 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 could not conflict with QFC public policy and mandatory QFC law.

Appeal

What is the procedure for challenging awards?

The procedure under the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure depends on whether it is an appeal, review or request for setting aside the award:

  • Arbitral awards may be appealed within 15 days following their filing with the court having original jurisdiction over the dispute, in accordance with the rules for appealing judgments (Article 205 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).
  • The time limit for a review is 30 days from the date on which the forgery or fraud was discovered, recognised or declared or when the decisive evidence was found. In the case of irregular representation, the time limit starts to run as of the date on which the award was notified (Articles 206 and 178 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).
  • A request for setting aside an arbitral award must be filed according to the normal procedures applicable to the court originally having jurisdiction over the dispute (Article 208 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).

Under the QFC Arbitration Regulations, an application to set aside an award may be made only to the QFC Tribunal. The application must be made within three months from the date on which the party making such request received the award. The time limit does not apply if the setting aside request was filed on the basis of a violation of QFC public policy (Article 41 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations). 

On what grounds can parties appeal an award?

The grounds under the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure depend on whether it is an appeal, review or request to set aside the award. Arbitral awards may be appealed according to the rules applicable to appeals of court judgments; these grounds are not limited to any specific errors of fact or law (Article 205 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). Arbitral awards may be reviewed in case of fraud, forgery, perjury, dissimulation of evidence or irregular representation (Article 206 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). Arbitral awards may be set aside in the following cases (Article 207 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure):

  • if the award was issued without an arbitration agreement, or pursuant to a document that was invalid or extinguished by prescription, or if the award went beyond the limits of the document, or contravened a rule of public policy or good conduct;
  • if the award was issued by arbitrators who had not been appointed pursuant to the law, or issued by arbitrators where they were not authorised to arbitrate in the absence of the others;
  • if the award is void or if there is an error of procedure which affects the award;
  • if the agreement to arbitrate is not made in writing;
  • if the subject of the dispute was neither determined in the arbitration agreement nor during the proceedings;
  • if the subject of the dispute is not arbitrable;
  • if one of the parties to the arbitration has no legal capacity; or
  • if the arbitrator is a minor, bankrupt, legally incapacitated or deprived of his or her civil rights due to a criminal offence.

The QFC Arbitration Regulations provide that recourse against an award may be made only by an application to set aside the award. It lists six limited grounds on which an award may be set aside (Article 41 of the QFC Arbitration Regulations):

  • if a party to the arbitration agreement was under incapacity, or the agreement was invalid under the law to which the parties have subjected it or, failing any indication, under the law of the QFC;
  • if the party requesting the setting aside of the award was not given proper notice of an arbitrator’s appointment or of the arbitral proceedings, or if it was unable to make its case;
  • if the award deals with a dispute not contemplated by or not falling within the terms of the submission to arbitration, or contains decisions on matters beyond the scope of the submission to arbitration, provided that, if the decisions on matters submitted to arbitration can be separated from those not so submitted, only that part of the award which contains decisions on matters not submitted to arbitration may be set aside;
  • if the composition of the arbitral tribunal or the arbitral procedure was not in accordance with the agreement of the parties, unless such agreement was in conflict with a provision of the QFC Arbitration Regulations from which the parties cannot derogate or, failing such agreement, was not in accordance with the QFC Arbitration Regulations;
  • if the subject matter of the dispute is not arbitrable under QFC law; or
  • if the award “is not in the interest” of the QFC.

Enforcement

What steps can be taken to enforce the award if there is a failure to comply?

See below.

Can awards be enforced in local courts?

Enforcement requires a court order granting leave to enforce. The requirements depend on whether the award is domestic or foreign.

In respect of awards rendered in Qatar, the award must be filed in the registry of the court with original jurisdiction over the dispute within 15 days of its issuance (Article 203 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). Each party may request the court with original jurisdiction to grant leave to enforce the award once it has been filed with the clerk of the court originally having jurisdiction over the dispute. The judge will issue the enforcement order after establishing the validity of the award and the arbitration agreement, and having made sure that there is no obstacle against its enforcement (Article 204 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).

With respect to foreign awards, a request is filed by summoning the other party to appear before the judge of the Higher Civil Court (Article 379 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). Foreign arbitral awards can be enforced in local courts subject to the following conditions, among others (Article 380 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure):

  • The award was not rendered in violation of an exclusive jurisdiction of the Qatari courts.
  • The award was not rendered in violation of the international rules of jurisdiction of the country where it was made.
  • The parties were regularly summoned and duly represented in the arbitration.
  • The award has become res judicata.
  • The award is not contrary to a prior judgment issued by a Qatari court.
  • The award does not contravene the rules of public policy and good morals in Qatar.

In addition, the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure requires reciprocity. The enforcement of a foreign award in Qatar will be granted under the same conditions as those required by that foreign jurisdiction for the enforcement of awards rendered in Qatar (Article 379 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).

How enforceable is the award internationally?

This depends on whether one of the conventions to which Qatar is a signatory applies and addresses enforcement. Qatar is a signatory of 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 Convention on Judicial Cooperation between States of the Arab League of 1983 (the ‘Riyadh Convention’ applies, recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards is possible without a review of the subject matter of the underlying dispute, provided that 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 raising a defence of state or sovereign immunity. However, there appear to be no indications that state immunity does not apply.

In the reverse situation, when Qatar claimed sovereign immunity when an International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) award rendered against it was sought to be enforced in France, the French Court of Cassation in a July 6 2000 decision 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 French Court of Cassation has since adopted a different approach, whereby a state can claim immunity only 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?

Enforcement requires a court order granting leave to enforce. The requirements depend on whether the award is domestic or foreign.

In respect of awards rendered in Qatar, the award must be filed in the registry of the court with original jurisdiction over the dispute within 15 days of its issuance (Article 203 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). Each party may request the court with original jurisdiction to grant leave to enforce the award once it has been filed with the clerk of the court originally having jurisdiction over the dispute. The judge will issue the enforcement order after establishing the validity of the award and the arbitration agreement, and having made sure that there is no obstacle against its enforcement (Article 204 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).

With respect to foreign awards, a request is filed by summoning the other party to appear before the judge of the Higher Civil Court (Article 379 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure). Foreign arbitral awards can be enforced in local courts subject to the following conditions, among others (Article 380 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure):

  • The award was not rendered in violation of an exclusive jurisdiction of the Qatari courts.
  • The award was not rendered in violation of the international rules of jurisdiction of the country where it was made.
  • The parties were regularly summoned and duly represented in the arbitration.
  • The award has become res judicata.
  • The award is not contrary to a prior judgment issued by a Qatari court.
  • The award does not contravene the rules of public policy and good morals in Qatar.

In addition, the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure requires reciprocity. The enforcement of a foreign award in Qatar will be granted under the same conditions as those required by that foreign jurisdiction for the enforcement of awards rendered in Qatar (Article 379 of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure).

How enforceable are foreign arbitral awards in your jurisdiction?

Foreign awards may be enforced in Qatar under the New York Convention, the Convention on Judicial Cooperation between States of the Arab League or the Gulf Council Convention for the Enforcement of Court Judgments. The New York Convention provides for recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards as per the convention. However, there have been cases in which the Qatari courts have not recognised or enforced awards due to public policy, namely due to the fact that the awards were not issued in the name of His Highness Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. All judgments must be issued in the name of His Highness Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The court in that particular case held that awards must also comply with this requirement. However, this position has since been overturned by the Qatari Court of Cassation. 

Will an award that has been set aside by the courts in the seat of arbitration be enforced in your jurisdiction?

Qatar is a signatory of the New York Convention, under which the enforcement of an award may be refused if it has been set aside by a competent authority of the country in which, or under the law of which, that award was made (Article V(1)(e) of the New York Convention). It is therefore to be expected that a Qatari court would not enforce such an award.

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).

Third-party funding

Rules and restrictions

Are there rules or restrictions on third-party funders?

The Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure and the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Arbitration Regulations contain no provisions on third-party funding of arbitration proceedings. However, there appears to be no reason to assume that such funding is not possible.

Class-action or group arbitration

Concept

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?

Both the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure and the Qatar Financial Centre Arbitration Regulations are silent on class-action arbitration.

Hot topics

Emerging trends

Are there any hot topics or trends emerging in arbitration in your jurisdiction?

Qatar has recognised the importance of promoting arbitration. It is expected to enact a new arbitration law soon in order to modernise the existing arbitration regime. Qatar is also taking other measures (eg, investing in the training of arbitrators) to promote arbitration.