The newly issued Law No. 2 of 2017 promulgating the Qatar Arbitration Law (“Arbitration Law”) has remedied a number of drawbacks contained within Law No. 13 of 1990 promulgating the Civil and Commercial Procedures Law (“CCPL”). This article shall focus on the validity of arbitration agreements as stipulated in Chapter 2 of the new Arbitration Law.
Article 190 of the CCPL provides that, “an agreement to arbitrate may only be in writing…” This writing requirement was interpreted by Qatari courts to mean in “paper” form only despite the alternative means for establishing an arbitration agreement. This can be contrasted with Article 7(3) of the Arbitration Law which provides a more lenient writing requirement. It states that the arbitration agreement must be in writing, which is deemed to be satisfied through any written means including electronic formats. This interpretation is consistent with that of the UNCITRAL Model Law.
The arbitration agreement can exist as a standalone document or as a clause within a contract. Even a mere reference in a contract to a document including an arbitration clause shall suffice if the reference clearly provides that the arbitration clause shall be a part of that contract. The writing requirement is also considered satisfied if one of the concerned parties admits to it in its statement of claim or response without any challenge arising thereto from the other concerned party in its defense.
In addition to the written agreement, the parties may resort to arbitration to settle any dispute arising between them, either before or after the occurrence of the dispute, so long as the matter is permitted to be settled through arbitration (i.e. arbitration is a permissible form of settlement for a particular issue).
Another drawback remedied in the new Arbitration Law is the involvement of the judiciary. Article 8 requires a court to refuse any action that is subject to an arbitration agreement unless it finds that the arbitration agreement is null and void, inoperative or unenforceable. However, the court has the power to take interim or precautionary measures in cases where an arbitration tribunal or any person bestowed with certain authority by the parties is incompetent or unable to act effectively and in a timely manner.