Qatar has seen a positive step forward in the enforcement of arbitration awards recently with a decision by the Court of Cassation examining the application of the New York Convention, of which Qatar is a member, in respect of enforcement of arbitration awards in Qatar.

The Court of Cassation overturned the judgment of two earlier courts to recognise an ICC arbitral award on the basis that it had not been issued in the name of the Emir and therefore contravened Qatari public policy. The Court of Cassation ruled that the arbitral award was issued under the ICC Rules, as such was a foreign-owned and therefore was not generally subject to Qatari procedural law.

The decision by the Court of Cassation to classify the award as "international" is key here.  The parties were Qatari, the arbitration took place in Qatar and Qatari law applied to the contract under dispute.  However, the Court of Cassation considered the award to be "foreign" as it was issued under the Rules of the ICC, headquartered in Paris and Hong Kong.

As a result of the classification of the award as "foreign", the Court of Cassation examined the provisions of the New York Convention, to which Qatar is a party.  That Convention, which has been signed by over 140 countries worldwide, allows for recognition of arbitration awards across all signatory states without any scope to review the underlying case.  The Court of Cassation recognised that the New York Convention "did not stipulate any provisions regarding the form of the award and that foreign awards are subject to Qatari procedural law only at enforcement phase and therefore only to the provisions of Qatari procedural law relevant to the process of enforcement itself". The Court of Cassation therefore overturned the judgment of the earlier courts.

This is a positive sign of a robust approach by the Qatari courts to support arbitration and resist reliance on local procedural requirements in the context of international arbitration. It demonstrates an arbitration friendly application by the Court of Cassation of Qatar's obligations under the New York Convention.