On 1 May 2023, the Qatar Financial Centre Court (the QFC Court) issued a ruling concerning its jurisdiction in a matter involving an application to appoint an arbitrator. The case involved a dispute between two companies, A and B, neither of which was established in the Qatar Financial Centre. The contract was governed by the Law of Arbitration in Civil and Commercial Matters of the State of Qatar (Law No. 2 of 2017, known as the Qatar Arbitration Law). A applied to the QFC Court to appoint an arbitrator, arguing that a missing comma in the official Arabic version of the Qatar Arbitration Law meant that neither the Court of the State of Qatar nor the QFC Court was the default Competent Court, and therefore the parties could choose their Competent Court. On this basis, the applicant chose the QFC Court.
The QFC Court considered the definition of "Competent Court" under Article 1 of the Qatar Arbitration Law, which defines the Competent Court as the Court of Appeal of the State of Qatar or the First Instance Court of the QFC Court, “pursuant to the agreement of the Parties.” While the English translation includes a comma separating the two courts, the Arabic original does not include such a comma. The QFC Court noted that the Arabic version of the law must prevail as laws of the State of Qatar are officially drafted in Arabic.
However, irrespective of the missing comma in the Arabic version, the QFC Court ultimately held that the reference "pursuant to the agreement of the Parties" only applies to the QFC Court. The Qatari State Courts are the default courts in Qatar, and hence other courts can only avail jurisdiction based on explicit agreement. The term " pursuant to the agreement of the Parties" therefore denotes a right for the parties to agree to the jurisdiction of the QFC Court. Failing agreement, the default Competent Court is the Court of Appeal of the State of Qatar.
Since the parties were not established in the Qatar Financial Centre, and had not agreed to the QFC Court’s jurisdiction, the jurisdiction vested with the Court of Appeal of the State of Qatar.
This ruling clarifies the jurisdiction of the QFC Court in arbitration matters and emphasises that the Qatari State Courts remain the default courts in Qatar.
Citation:  QIC (F) 16, A v B; dated 1 May 2023
The Qatari State Courts are the default courts in Qatar, and hence other courts can only avail jurisdiction based on explicit agreement.