CEO of Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre (QICDRC), Faisal bin Rashid Al Sahouti said that the court adjudicated in QR 1 billion lawsuits in 2022, which varied between banking and financial sector disputes, breach of contract claims, debt recovery, labor lawsuits, insurance-related cases, and regulatory violations lawsuits.
Speaking to Qatar News Agency (QNA), Faisal bin Rashid Al Sahouti attributed the significant and noticeable increase in the number of cases brought before the court to the surge in the volume of the assets managed by the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), about USD 28.3 billion, and the number of QFC-registered companies has increased to nearly 1,500 companies.
Al Sahouti pointed out that the number of lawsuits before the court in 2022 surged by 69 percent year-on-year, pointing out that this increase reflects the growth of commercial activity within the Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZA) and QFC. He indicated that small claims accounted for 45 percent of the total claims filed in the first year of its launch, while 90 percent of the cases filed were dealt with, either fully or partially, through the electronic case management system.
Regarding the compliance of bodies and institutions with court rulings compared to their counterparts from courts in the region, companies are obligated to implement the content of QICDRC rulings and orders and in the event of non-voluntary execution, the enforcement shall be compulsory in accordance with the procedures in force in the court operating within the judicial system in the State of Qatar, just as any judicial ruling issued by other courts in the country is implemented, Al Sahouti explained.
He pointed out that the court is constantly working with the Supreme Judicial Council to support the achievement of prompt justice in the country, and the council is assigning its judges to the court to assume the tasks of implementing judicial rulings issued by the Qatar International Court and the Regulatory Tribunal.
Concerning the differences between the Qatar International Court and the Regulatory Tribunal and their jurisdiction, Al Sahouti said that the two courts were established under the provisions of Law No. 7 of 2005 and its amendments within the legal framework regulating QFC, as the state saw the importance of establishing a specialized court to adjudicate disputes related to QFC to spread confidence and reassurance among international financial institutions and companies wishing to invest in QFC.
Al Sahouti explained that Qatar International Court is concerned with civil and commercial disputes arising from transactions or contracts between companies established in QFC, or between those companies and contractors contracting with them and others.
He added that Qatar International Court adjudicates all civil and commercial disputes and lawsuits between companies registered in QFZA, or between those companies and QFZA, individuals, or companies registered in QFZA, and others, in addition to its jurisdiction over civil and commercial disputes related to other parties that are assigned to the court by law.
Al Sahouti further explained that the Regulatory Tribunal adjudicates appeals submitted by individuals and entities against decisions issued by the QFC Authority, the QFC Regulatory Authority, and other QFC bodies.
He added that the Regulatory Tribunal adjudicates appeals against decisions of the QFZA Board of Directors related to the cancellation or suspension of licenses of registered companies in the free zones.
He stated that Arbitration Law No. 2 of 2017 gave the Qatar International Court jurisdiction to consider issues related to arbitration, along with the civil and commercial arbitration disputes department of the Court of Appeal, as the court is specialized in providing aid and judicial assistance for arbitration in addition to its supervisory jurisdiction to consider a case for the invalidity of the arbitration ruling.
Al Sahouti underlined that the establishment of QICDRC contributed to supporting the investment climate in QFC.
CEO of Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre (QICDRC), Faisal bin Rashid Al Sahouti drew attention to the differences in the terms of reference of the newly established Investment and Trade Court in the country and the Qatar International Court, indicating that the two courts were established within the framework of the state's constant endeavor to support the investment environment, and its belief in the importance of the specialized judiciary as one of the most important factors stimulating investment and attracting capital to the state, especially after the success of the Qatar International Court in enhancing the investment climate in QFC and the state.
He stressed that the two courts are constantly working on exchanging expertise through joint judicial training programs and exchanging experiences concerning the electronic case management system, especially since the Qatar International Court was the first Qatari court in the country to implement the electronic case management system in 2018.
Regarding the nature of the cases brought before the Regulatory Tribunal, Al Sahouti indicated the Regulatory Tribunal adjudicates appeals submitted by individuals and entities against decisions issued by the QFC Authority, the QFC Regulatory Authority, and other QFC bodies, in addition to appeals against decisions of the QFZA Board of Directors related to the cancellation or suspension of licenses of registered companies in the free zones.
On the meaning of the practice directives issued by the court and the number of them issued in 2022, the CEO of QICDRC stated that the practice directives are guidelines issued by the court to clarify certain procedures to be followed before it and the court has issued several directives related to the electronic filing of claims, declaration using electronic means, etc, adding that the court issued one directive regarding small claims.
Concerning the adoption of the electronic system in litigation procedures and the Qatar International Court's latest investment in the technical infrastructure and its integration into the working mechanism of justice and judicial institutions, Al Sahouti indicated that the court was keen to launch its electronic system (eCourt) in 2018, to support the achievement of prompt justice and to facilitate the litigants.
He explained that this system is considered the first electronic system for managing cases in the country, and it allows filing, registering, and declaring the cases, as well as exchanging notes, attending sessions remotely, and inquiring about all procedures that took place in the case electronically without the need to attend in person.
The Supreme Judicial Council was also keen to develop the electronic justice system, as the Council provides a set of electronic judicial services to litigants, auditors, and lawyers via the Council's official website and application on smart devices, in addition to the services of notifications and judicial notices electronically via text messages.
The Qatari legislator was also keen, in Law No. 21 of 2021, establishing the Investment and Trade Court to establish an electronic system for the court that enables it to electronically send various notices related to the case to the parties as well as allowing these parties to send and exchange notes, documents and experience reports among themselves electronically without the need to put a paper copy of those notes, documents, and reports in the Registry of the Court.
As for arbitration practices in the State of Qatar and its most important developments and the challenges facing arbitration in Qatar and the region, Al Sahouti said that Qatar has made sure that its arbitration law is derived entirely from the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration.
The Qatari legislator has adopted the most critical international guarantees and standards in international commercial arbitration, particularly the principle of the independence of the arbitration from the original contract and the principle of jurisdiction, thus, activating the role of arbitration and giving it more confidence as an effective and flexible method for settling disputes.
It was noted that the litigants turned to arbitration for settling disputes, especially after the issuance of Arbitration Law No. 2 of 2017. The key challenges facing arbitration in Qatar and the world were during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, as a result of the lack of rules regulating remote arbitration, which has made some countries amend their laws to allow pleading or hearing sessions to take place remotely, Al Sahouti said, adding that many arbitration centers have also issued a set of principles and directives (protocols) related to the method of preparing for remote hearings and pleadings and simulating traditional arbitration sessions in which the parties, their legal representatives and members of the arbitral tribunal meet face to face.
He indicated that one of the most important challenges facing arbitration is also the continuous amendment of arbitration legislation, given that arbitration is characterized by continuous development, therefore, it is necessary to keep up with the latest developments and international standards related to arbitration.
Regarding the extent to which commercial disputes are settled through mediation in Qatar, Al Sahouti affirmed that recent years have witnessed a remarkable increase in the use of mediation as an effective tool for settling civil and commercial disputes in many countries, due to the positive results it has achieved in resolving and settling them, especially those related to the commercial, financial, investment and construction sectors.
He explained that Qatar sensed the importance of spreading the thought of mediation as an effective tool for dispute settlement, as it issued Law No. 20 of 2021 on mediation for the settlement of civil and commercial disputes to contribute to creating an attractive environment for investment.
Qatar was also among the first countries to accede to the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, known as the "Singapore Convention on Mediation," which was ratified by the State of Qatar on 10/07/2020. In 2020, Qatar International Court issued rules regulating mediation procedures in civil and commercial disputes, which apply to judicial mediation and mediation agreements.
The mediation rules of the court are flexible and easy to apply. The recent period has witnessed an increasing demand for resolving disputes between companies in Qatar through mediation.
However, in light of the absence of accurate statistics on the number of cases that are resolved through mediation, given that mediation is characterized by confidentiality and privacy, it is very difficult to estimate the number of cases that have been settled through mediation. (QNA)