While Qatar has signed the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards without reservation, enforcement of an arbitral award in Qatar is governed by a law enacted in 1990: the Civil and Commercial Procedure Code, Law No. 13 of 1990 (Civil Procedure Code). The Civil Procedure Code, Article 204, requires that to be enforceable in Qatar, the arbitral award must be ratified by a judicial officer of the State of Qatar:
The award of the arbitrators shall not be enforceable unless by virtue of an order issued by the judge of the court with which the original copy of the award was deposited at the office of the Registry of the court on the demand of any of the interested parties. The judge shall issue the writ of execution after examining the award and the arbitration document and after making sure that nothing should prevent the execution thereof. The writ of execution shall be appended to the original arbitration award. The judge ordering the execution shall have the competent jurisdiction over all the matters related to the execution of the award.
To validate and enforce an arbitral award in Qatar, the party seeking enforcement must bring an action in the Qatar Courts and demonstrate to the judge examining the award that there is no "basis to prevent execution of the award." 1
Once the Qatar Court ratifies the award and opines on enforcement, the Civil Procedure Code discourages appeals, stating in one provision that awards are not appealable if the "arbitrator was authorized to arbitrate the dispute."
The Civil Procedure Code does nonetheless provides grounds for appealing an award for fraud, forgery, perjury or the suppression of material evidence.2 Although they are limited, these grounds indicate that a party appealing the enforcement of an arbitral award would be able to "open up" and examine the basis of the arbitral award, and that the Qatar judge could decide to examine the facts and evidence behind the decision, including the evidence presented in witness statements and in hearings.
The Civil Procedure Code does not, however, provide for parties to appeal arbitral awards on purely legal grounds, such as the failure to properly understand and apply Qatar law. Further, the Civil Procedure Code allows parties to waive their right to appeal, but the ability to appeal on the grounds of fraud, forgery, perjury or the suppression of material evidence is not subject to that waiver. Therefore, contractually waiving the right to appeal may have little to no effect under Qatar law.
Qatar's Civil Procedure Code provides that parties can challenge and attempt to nullify arbitral awards on the grounds that:
- The award was not allowed by an arbitration agreement;
- The award does not comply with requirements of Qatar law;
- The arbitrators were not authorized to reach their decision; or
- The award was procedurally invalid.3
Any party seeking to challenge and/or nullify the award must file an original action with the Qatar Court of competent jurisdiction, which then has broad discretion to consider the party's request. A challenge of an arbitral award stays the implementation of that award, unless ordered otherwise by the Court. The Civil Procedure Code empowers the Court to rule "in the dispute by itself if it deems fit," or can "refer the case back to the arbitrators to correct the faults in their award."4
While there are not many published Court cases regarding the enforcement of arbitral awards in Qatar, those that have been published indicate the Qatari Courts carefully examine arbitral awards. In one widely reported case, an arbitration dispute concerning the valuation of shares of a Qatari limited liability company (LLC), the parties brought the dispute before an arbitrator who determined the value of the shares in dispute, ordering that an existing LLC member be paid according to that valuation. After receiving the award, the parties brought that award to the Qatar Court of First Instance seeking to nullify and annul the award; but the Court of First Instance denied jurisdiction. The parties appealed the denial to the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the Court of First Instance and the parties then appealed to the Court of Cassation.5
The Court of Cassation examined the international arbitral ruling and determined that Article 63 of the Civil Procedure Code specified that all judicial power flowed from the Qatar Constitution and the Emir [monarch of the State of Qatar]. Further, Article 69 required that "judgements are issued and executed in the name of H[is] H[ighness] the Emir of the State of Qatar." The Court of Cassation examined statutory language and determined there was no distinction between a "judgement" and an arbitral "award," which meant that arbitral awards also had to be issued in the name of the Emir to be enforceable.
On the grounds that the arbitral award did not state that it was issued in the name of the Emir, the Court of Cassation determined "it shall be considered null and void, contrary to the public order and the Court may sua sponte declare it as such." In subsequent cases seeking enforcement of international arbitral awards, Qatar Courts agreed and followed this reasoning.6
However, a recent Court of Cassation opinion could signal a change. The Court of Cassation found in a 2014 case7 that a foreign award did not have to be issued in the name of the Emir, or the head of the state of the location of the arbitral tribunal, and that the rules of the forum where the dispute was arbitrated was applicable to determining enforcement of the award. While there are still some outstanding issues, such as whether this award was deemed an international award or a local award and whether this distinction matters, this decision is hopefully an indication that the enforcement of arbitral awards is becoming a more standard practice in Qatar.
Take Away Points
A client considering the enforcement of an arbitral award in the State of Qatar should prepare for a process that will include delay and examination of the arbitral award. There are several issues for which a party should prepare if their intent is to attempt to enforce an arbitral award in Qatar:
- If possible, have the award issued in the name of the Emir of Qatar;
- Have the award translated into Arabic prior to seeking enforcement;
- Prepare to demonstrate that the arbitrator was properly appointed with no conflicts of interest, that the award was subject to a properly negotiated arbitration clause or provision, and that the prevailing party was not engaged in any fraud or fraudulent activity that led to the arbitral award; and
- Engage counsel that understands the process of getting an arbitral award enforced in Qatar and can guide clients to a successful conclusion.