The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, issued Law No 2 of 2017 on 16 February 2017 (the "New Arbitration Law"). The New Arbitration Law has not yet been published in the Official Gazette and implementing regulations are yet to be issued, but the New Arbitration Law will come into force 30 days after this occurs.
The New Arbitration Law replaces Articles 190 to 210 of the Qatari Civil Code, which previously governed arbitration proceedings seated in Qatar. In a positive step, it is substantially based on the UNCITRAL Model Law, which is the benchmark for arbitration legislation, and will apply to all ongoing and future disputes. Although other jurisdictions in the region (such as the UAE) have considered adopting or have adopted the UNCITRAL Model law (for example, the 2005 Arbitration Regulations are heavily based on the Model Law), Qatar will be the first in the region to implement them onshore. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how these provisions will be applied in practice and the courts' approach when asked to exercise their supervisory jurisdiction.
Following on from our reporting on the controversial first decision of the Judicial Tribunal in Daman Real Capital Partners Company LLC v. Oger Dubai LLC, Cassation No. 1 of 2016 (JT) (click here), there has been significant commentary on the possible implications for the DIFC's status as a conduit jurisdiction, particularly in connection with the enforceability in the DIFC of Dubai-seated arbitral awards, commonly referred to as the 'Banyan Tree' jurisdiction.
At best, the Judicial Tribunal's decision seemed to provide yet another forum for onshore award debtors to use guerrilla tactics to frustrate and delay satisfaction of awards and, at worst, appeared to rule out enforcement of onshore seated DIAC arbitral awards in the DIFC, effectively overturning Banyan Tree.
Dubai promotes itself as an arbitration-friendly jurisdiction, in line with its objective of attracting international business. A recent, much-publicised change to the UAE Federal Penal Code which introduces potential criminal sanctions for arbitrators, threatened to undermine this reputation.
It would now appear that this threat is real, as arbitrators are in increasing number withdrawing from UAE-seated tribunals and refusing nominations to sit as arbitrators on such tribunals.
While the apparent policy behind the new amendment is understandable, since it requires that arbitrators act with impartiality and integrity, the drafting has far-reaching and perhaps unintended consequences.
Dubai Arbitration Week is underway with an extensive programme of events. The CIArb Seminar opened proceedings on 13 November including a keynote address by Vincent Moran QC of Keating Chambers on "Turbulent and troublesome tribunals and the appearance of bias" and panel discussion on "What makes an effective and efficient seat in international arbitration?". Other events across the coming week include a keynote address from Jacomijn van Haersolte-van Hof (Director General, LCIA) on diversity in international arbitration, the MENA Young Arbitrators Conference, at which senior associate Robert Stephen will moderate a Tylney Hall style Q&A session, and the third annual GAR Live Dubai Symposium co-moderated by partner Caroline Kehoe.
Attracting an ever growing number of practitioners from around the world, Dubai Arbitration Week consolidates Dubai's position as an arbitration hub and the main centre for the resolution of commercial disputes in the Middle East. For more information, please see here.