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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.
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