On 16 February 2017, the new Qatar Arbitration Law was enacted and will come into force 30 days after publication in the Official Gazette.
The new legislation aims to replace articles 190 to 210 of the Civil and Commercial Code of Procedure from 1990 with provisions which largely mirror the UNCITRAL Model Law.
The new Arbitration Law will apply to all Qatar-seated arbitrations and cover both public and private sectors as well as disputes that have already commenced.
Overview of the new provisions
Taking a similar approach to the Model Law, the new Arbitration Law is permissive and flexible in nature, allowing parties to freely determine the arbitration process. Parties have a choice of the competent court supervising the arbitral proceedings; this could be either the local Court of Appeal or the Qatar International Court.
In terms of the application, Article 2(2) requires the Prime Minister or a delegate to approve inclusion or conclusion of arbitration agreements concerning administrative contracts. Such administrative contracts may include those where the Government or State, tend to engage in commercial activities.
Furthermore, Article 2(3) looks at the meaning of “civil and commercial”, mirroring the broad approach taken by the UNCITRAL Model Law, which covers both contractual and non-contractual disputes.
Finally, the new provisions offer a definition for “international” in Article 2(4), which is very similar to the one contained in the Model Law, with the addition of the instances where the parties have agreed that an arbitral institution that is based outside Qatar, will administer the arbitration.
With regard to the arbitration agreement, Article 7(3) of the new Arbitration Law states that this should be made in writing, irrespective to whether it takes the form of a signed document or not.
However, Article 7(4) goes on to note that where there is no written record, it will be sufficient that a party admits the existence of the agreement in their pleadings.
Articles 10 and 11 address the composition of the tribunal, taking the default position that, subject to the agreement of the parties, the tribunal will be formed of three arbitrators.
More generally, the tribunal should be composed of an odd number, who will need a majority in their decisions. Taking a step forward, Article 16 affirms the principle of Kompetenz-Kompetenz, which is also recognised by the Model Law.
With regard to interim measures, Article 17 is an opt-out provision, allowing the tribunal to obtain cost undertakings from the parties applying for interim or preliminary orders. If a party does not comply with such a measure issued by the arbitral tribunal, the relevant measure can be enforced before the Court of First Instance.
Closely connected to this provision is Article 27, which allows the tribunal to request the assistance of the court in obtaining evidence, in particular when dealing with non-willing participants.
The provisions regarding the actual conduct of the arbitration mirror the ones contained in the Model Law. One notable distinction, is the fact that expert witnesses are no longer required to take an oath during the oral hearings, as these proceedings will be recorded in the minutes.
Finally, recognition and enforcement as well as recourse against the awards are almost identical to the Model Law provisions, with an important change regarding the time limit for the challenge of the award. Essentially, such a challenge has to be made within one month from the date when the party received the award.
The new Arbitration Law brings positive changes to the Qatar arbitration field. Largely mirroring the UNCITRAL Model Law, the new legislation aims to attract foreign investment and provide a modern forum for the settlement of disputes.
Sabina Adascalitei LLB, LLM, MCIArb
Research and Academic Affairs Coordinator