Guide to International Arbitration in the Middle East: Qatar

This is the fourth in a series of Guides to International Arbitration in the Middle East.

In this guide, we will look at international arbitration in Qatar.

This information found in this guide is accurate as of January 17, 2022.

Is Qatar a signatory to the New York Convention?

Qatar is a signatory to the New York Convention, under Emiri Decree No. 29 of 2003 which came into force on March 15, 2003.

Qatar declared the “reciprocity reservation” pursuant to Article 1(3) of the New York Convention, meaning that it will only recognize and enforce foreign awards made in other signatory states.

What legislation applies to arbitration in Qatar?

Law No. 2 of 2017 issuing the Arbitration Law in Civil and Commercial Matters (“the Arbitration Law”) applies.

The general duty of the tribunal is to act impartially and to treat the parties equally. In doing so, the tribunal is required to provide the parties a full and equal opportunity to present their respective cases, and avoid any unnecessary delays or expenses, and to ensure a fair and expeditious process (Article 18 of the Arbitration Law).

Having said that, parties have the flexibility to choose the rules applicable to the arbitral proceedings, and the tribunal must follow the same. However, if the parties are unable to agree the procedural rules, the tribunal can apply any rules that it deems appropriate (Articles 19(1) and (2) of the Arbitration Law).

There are also certain other aspects of the Arbitration Law, such as:

  • The parties are free to agree the language of the proceedings. In the absence of an agreement, the tribunal has the authority to decide the applicable.
  • The parties can also choose any venue for the arbitration. If they do not agree, the tribunal will determine the venue keeping in mind the circumstances of the case and convenience for the parties.
  • The tribunal is required to conduct physical or virtual hearings, unless it deems that the arbitration can be concluded on the basis of the documents or if the parties have agreed.
  • The witnesses and experts do not need to swear an oath when giving testimonies
  • The arbitrators must render their award within the timeframe agreed by the parties. If there is no agreement, then the award must be rendered within a month of the conclusion of the proceedings.
  • The award must be in writing and signed by the arbitrator/arbitrators who rendered the award.
  • In addition, there are certain self-explanatory requirements for pleadings, representation and expert evidence, which can be found in Articles 23 to 27 of the Arbitration Law.

What other arbitration-related treaties and conventions is Qatar a party to?

Qatar is signatory to the following international treaties that are relevant to the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration awards:

  • International Centre for Settlement of Investor Disputes Convention (“ICSID Convention”) as of February 14, 2011, under Emiri Decree No. 5 of 2011;
  • Convention on Judicial Cooperation between states of the Arab League (“Riyadh Convention”) of 1983;
  • Arab League Convention on Commercial Arbitration of 1987; and
  • Gulf Council Convention for the Execution of Judgments, Delegations and Judicial Notifications of 1996 (“Gulf Convention”).
  • United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation 2018 (“Singapore Convention”), under Emiri Decree 79 of 2020.

Is the law governing international arbitration in Qatar based on the UNCITRAL Model Law? Are there significant differences between the two?

The Arbitration Law largely follows the UNCITRAL Model Law. However, there are some differences between the two, including:

  • Article 2(2) of the Arbitration Law introduces a unique requirement: the Prime Minister’s approval must be obtained to conclude arbitration agreements in administrative contracts which can be loosely defined as agreements made with governmental entities for a public benefit.
  • Public sector entities are prohibited from arbitrating disputes between them under the Arbitration Law (Article 2(2) of the Arbitration Law).
  • The Arbitration Law includes a provision on the immunity of arbitrators who are immune from liability unless they have acted in bad faith, collusion or gross negligence (Article 11(11) of the Arbitration Law).
  • The Arbitration Law requires the tribunal to include, within the body of the award, a copy of the arbitration agreement (Article 31(3) of the Arbitration Law).
  • It also requires sending an electronic copy of the award to the administrative department at the Qatari Ministry of Justice (Article 31(11) of the Arbitration Law).
  • The timeframes to challenge an award, and to seek its correction or interpretation are shorter in the Arbitration Law. A party must request a correction or interpretation within seven (7) days of the receipt of the award, and the tribunal must then make the same within seven (7) days of the receipt of the party’s request. However, these timelines can be altered if the parties agree to the contrary (Article 32(1) of the Arbitration Law).
  • The time limit under the Arbitration Law for a party to file a request for annulment is set at one month from the date of the receipt of the final award, as opposed to the three-month period prescribed in the UNCITRAL Model Law (Article 33(4) of the Arbitration Law).

What arbitration institutes exist in Qatar?

Qatar has one arbitral institute: the Qatar International Centre for Conciliation and Arbitration (“QICCA”).

The QICCA Rules of Arbitration (the “QICCARules”) were first introduced in 2012. No amendments have been made so far. However, given the number of mega projects and the FIFA World Cup 2022, the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry is considering updating the rules to remain consistent and suitable to different parties. This could include a chapter for emergency arbitration as provided in the ICC rules.

What are the validity requirements for an arbitration agreement under the laws of Qatar?

For an arbitration agreement to be valid and enforceable under Qatari legislation, the following criteria applies:

  • The parties must have capacity to agree to settle the dispute through arbitration (Article 7(1) of the Arbitration Law).
  • The subject matter of the dispute must be arbitrable (Article 7(2) of the Arbitration Law).
  • The arbitration agreement must be in writing (Article 7(3) of the Arbitration Law).

In relation to administrative contracts (public works and public procurement), an arbitration agreement involving a state entity must obtain prior approval from the Prime Minister or risk bearing the arbitration agreement as invalid (see above).

Are arbitration clauses considered separable from the main contract?

Pursuant to Article 16(1) of the Arbitration Law, arbitration clauses uphold the doctrine of separability.

Furthermore, an arbitration clause which is incorporated into a contract by reference to another document is enforceable, provided that the said reference clearly makes that external clause a part of the contract (Article 7(5) of Arbitration Law).

Is there anything particular to note in Qatar with regard to multi-party or multi-contract arbitration?

The Arbitration Law does not provide any guidance as to dealing with multi-party or multi- contract arbitrations.

If it does apply, the same formal requirements for a valid arbitration agreement must be in place.

In what instances can third parties or non-signatories be bound by an arbitration agreement? Are there any recent court decisions on these issues?

The Arbitration Law is silent in this regard.

However, one essential requirement for the validity of an arbitration agreement is that it must be in writing. Further, in accordance with the general doctrine of privity of contracts specified under Article 175 and 177 of Qatar Law No. 22 of 2004 (the “Civil Code”), the arbitration agreement is binding on the contracting parties and their general successors only.

The tribunal can, therefore, assume jurisdiction over third parties in the event of a general succession to a party, unless the parties have agreed otherwise. Article 7(6) of the Arbitration Law provides that the arbitration agreement does not expire with the death of one of the parties and can continue to be implemented by or against the persons who represent that party, unless otherwise stipulated in a specific legislative provision or by agreement of the parties.

Having said that, we are not aware of any precedents whereby non-signatories were held to be bound by an arbitration agreement.

Are any types of disputes considered non-arbitrable? Has there been any evolution in this regard in recent years?

The Arbitration Law broadly sets out the type of disputes in which conciliation is not permitted, and hence, cannot be arbitrated (Article 7(2) of the Arbitration Law).

We understand these to include disputes relating to marriage, incapacity, guardianship, and criminal disputes. Further, the Arbitration Law provides that public entities cannot resort to arbitration for inter se disputes (Article 2(2) of the Arbitration Law).

There have been no further developments in this regard.

Are there any restrictions in the appointment of arbitrators in Qatar?

Pursuant to Article 11 of the Arbitration Law, the arbitrator(s) must be chosen from the list of approved arbitrators maintained with the Ministry of Justice. However, it is also permissible to nominate any other person as an arbitrator provided that the person:

  • Is of full legal capacity;
  • Has not been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor relating to honesty and character, even if that person’s name is cleared later; and
  • Is of good reputation and standing

There are no restrictions regarding nationality (unless the parties agree or the applicable law referred to in the contract states otherwise), religion or gender.

Finally, the tribunal must be composed of an odd number of arbitrators, or the arbitration is null and void (Article 10 of the Arbitration Law).

Can the local courts intervene in the selection of arbitrators? If so, how?

In the absence of an agreement between the parties to appoint arbitrators, the following applies:

  • If the arbitration agreement provides for one arbitrator, and the parties fail to agree on the arbitrator within thirty (30) days from the date of the written notice served by the applicant to the other parties in that regard, any of the parties can ask the arbitration institution or the competent court to appoint the arbitrator(s).
  • In the case of a three-person arbitral tribunal, each party must appoint one arbitrator. The two appointed arbitrators must then agree to the third arbitrator. The arbitration institution or the competent court, as applicable, appoints the arbitrators on request of either party where:
    • either party fails to appoint their respective arbitrators within thirty (30) days from the date of receiving a request in that regard from the other party; or
    • the arbitrators appointed by the parties fail to appoint the third arbitrator within thirty (30) days from the date of their appointment.

An application to appoint an arbitrator must be made by notifying all the of parties, and must include a summary of the nature of the dispute and the steps taken to appoint the arbitrator.

Can the appointment of an arbitrator be challenged? What are the grounds for such challenge? What is the procedure for such challenge?

Article 12 of the Arbitration Law provides that an arbitrator’s appointment can only be challenged if there are reasonable doubts about their impartiality or independence, or where they do not meet the qualifications agreed upon by the parties.

If the other party objects to the challenge, or the arbitrator fails to withdraw, the matter is referred to the Qatari courts or the arbitral institution which is administering the arbitration, as the case may be.

Parties may not appeal against the arbitration institution or the court’s decision in removing or refusing to remove an arbitrator. Under Article 13 of the Arbitration Law, an application to remove an arbitrator must be made within fifteen (15) days from the date the applicant becomes aware of the arbitrator’s appointment or of the circumstances justifying removal of the arbitrator.

Are arbitrators immune from liability in Qatar?

Article 11 of the Arbitration Law grants arbitrators general immunity from liability, unless the arbitrator has acted in bad faith, collusion or gross negligence.

Are there particular rules governing evidentiary matters in arbitration? Will the local courts in Qatar play any role in the obtaining of evidence? Can the local courts compel witnesses to participate in arbitration proceedings?

Further to Article 19 of the Arbitration Law, parties are free to decide on the rules of evidence that would apply to the arbitration. The tribunal has the authority to determine questions of admissibility, relevance, and weight of evidence, subject to the rules agreed by the parties.

Subject to the tribunal’s permission, the tribunal or the parties can request the court’s assistance in the collection of evidence. Arbitral proceedings can be stayed pending the court’s assistance (Article 27(1) of the Arbitration Law).

Having said that, if the court agrees to the request for assistance, it can exercise the rights accorded to it under Qatar Law No. 13 of 1990 (the “Civil and Commercial Procedures Law”), including summoning of witnesses and penal sanctions for witnesses who fail to respond (Article 27(2) of the Arbitration Law).

How are the costs of arbitration proceedings estimated and allocated?

The tribunal must decide the burden of the arbitration costs in terms of fees and expenses, the party responsible to pay the costs, and the payment procedure, unless the parties agree otherwise (Article 31(4) of the Arbitration Law).

The tribunal takes into account all expenses incurred in the arbitration process, including the administrative fees of the arbitration institution, arbitrators’ fees, legal costs, and other disbursements, and apportions them between the parties under the award on liability. The tribunal can order the unsuccessful party to bear all the costs of arbitration, or part of them.

The factors considered in determining costs include the nature of the dispute, its complexity, and the time and effort required to present the parties’ cases. Qatari law grants the tribunal discretionary power in assessing and determining the costs it deems reasonable, provided that it bases its decision on solid grounds.

What legal requirements are there in Qatar for the recognition and enforcement of an award? Is there a requirement that the award be reasoned, i.e. substantiated and motivated?

The requirements for a valid award are set out in Article 31 of the Arbitration Law.

This includes that an award must be delivered in writing and it must be reasoned, unless the parties agree otherwise or the applicable arbitral rules do not require a reasoned award.

It also requires that the award sets out the parties’ details, claims and arguments, as well as the tribunal’s decision as to the merits of the dispute and costs of arbitration.

The recognition and enforcement process is set out in Article 34 of the Arbitration Law.

For domestic awards, after expiry of the period for filing an annulment request, the winning party can apply to the competent judge seeking an exequatur for the award and its enforcement.

What is the estimated timeframe for the recognition and enforcement of an award? May a party bring a motion for the recognition and enforcement of an award on an ex parte basis?

The timeframe is difficult to estimate. However, in the past, the recognition and enforcement process may take between six (6) to twelve (12) months.

An application for recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards may only be made once the time limit for submitting an application to set aside the arbitral award has expired (Article 34(3) of the Arbitration Law).

Subject to the preceding provision, an application for enforcement can continue on ex parte basis, provided that parties have been properly served.

Can arbitration awards be appealed or challenged in local courts? What are the grounds and procedure?

Arbitral awards can be challenged only by a request for annulment in accordance with the provisions of the Arbitration Law. According to the law, the award cannot be appealed on its merits (Article 33 of the Arbitration Law).

According to Article 33 of the Arbitration Law, an application for annulment of an arbitral award is only admitted if the applicant provides proof of any of the following:

  • A party to the arbitration agreement was, at the time of conclusion, lacking the necessary legal eligibility or capacity under the law agreed to by the parties as the applicable law or under the Arbitration Law, unless the parties agree otherwise.
  • The applicant was not duly notified of the appointment of an arbitrator or of the arbitration proceedings, or the applicant failed to submit a defense for any reasons falling beyond the applicant’s control.
  • The arbitral award has decided matters not covered by, or has gone beyond the limits of, the arbitration agreement. However, if parts of the arbitral award relate to matters covered by the arbitration agreement and are separable from those not covered, the annulment is only effective with respect to the parts not
  • The composition of the arbitral tribunal, the appointment of arbitrators or the arbitration proceedings have not occurred in accordance with what the parties agreed to. This is unless the agreement is in conflict with any provision of the Arbitration Law or, if there is no agreement between the parties, where the proceedings were carried out in violation of the Arbitration

The competent court can annul an arbitral award where either the:

  • Subject matter of the dispute is, under the laws of Qatar, not arbitrable.
  • Arbitral award is contrary to the public policy of Qatar.

Pursuant to Article 33(4) of the Arbitration Law, an application for annulment or a request for annulment must be filed within one (1) month from the date of either:

  • Delivery of a copy of the arbitral award to the party.
  • Summoning the applicant for annulment of the arbitral award.
  • Issuance of the correction, explanation/interpretation or supplemental information within the arbitral award.

The competent court hears the application for annulment after summoning the other party to submit a defense. The court’s ruling on annulment is final and not subject to appeal.


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