Board member for international relations, Qatar International Center for Conciliation & Arbitration (QICCA)
CEO, Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre (QICDRC)
What were the main highlights for QICDRC during 2020?
FAISAL AL-SAHOUTI Both for businesses and individuals, 2020 was extremely challenging; however, QICDRC was well prepared for this pandemic. As with many authorities and agencies in Qatar, we have a well-established IT infrastructure which facilitates electronic and remote ways of working, which proved crucial during the height of the pandemic. As a court, QICDRC cannot afford to be disconnected from the public. Especially during difficult times, people rely upon the court to act swiftly, particularly in cases where, for example, urgent relief is sought. This is exactly what happened from March 2020. We found ourselves busier in terms of these types of urgent applications. We always need to be here to help people. For example, in addition to dealing with urgent interlocutory matters, the court was also required to deal with a number of employment related claims where employees sought assistance in regards to matters such as the recovery of unpaid salaries or help in facilitating their transference of sponsorship in the face of objections raised by the previous employer. As alluded to above, QICDRC already had in place the necessary IT infrastructure, including a specially designed electronic case management system for the court. Moreover, the court’s audio-video technology was utilized to ensure that court hearings could take place virtually, allowing participants to join from anywhere in the world. Another two initiatives we are extremely proud of are the launch of our pro-bono scheme and our mediation service in November 2020, which is an important dispute resolution pathway. In addition, although QICDRC does not offer an administered arbitration service, its purpose-built premises are capable of being used by parties to an arbitration who can book the facilities as required in advance of their hearing. The court also plays a role in enforcing certain types of arbitral awards in accordance with the relevant provisions of Law No 2 of 2017. Thanks to the 2017 law, the practice of arbitration in Qatar has now been brought into line with international standards.
What were the main circumstances behind the increase in arbitration activities in Qatar in 2019, and what are your expectations regarding its evolution in 2020 and 2021?
SHEIKH THANI BIN ALI AL THANI In 2019, the increase in arbitration cases was caused by the breach of several large construction contracts and the termination of some others. Our expectations for 2020 and 2021 is that the increase will continue either for ad hoc arbitration or institutional arbitration. Mediation is deeply rooted in the Qatari legal landscape. Several conflicts were resolved by mediation in the last few years. We look forward for a mediation law to be prepared by the Qatari legislator order to practice mediation on a larger scale. QICCA promotes mediation/conciliation in most of the cases prior to resort to arbitration.
How will the trend of utilizing more digital technology in the justice system evolve post-COVID-19?
FAS The court has, since its inception, been able to operate virtually. However, we enhanced the digital infrastructure over the last two years, and not just in light of the pandemic. We already had the intention to rely more heavily on digital tools. COVID-19 was an opportunity for us to change people’s mentality, explaining that it was not always necessary, or indeed desirable, to attend court in person. There is no need for us to bring in all the judges, parties, witnesses, and lawyers physically into court when they can more easily be accommodated through virtual means. One case we had in the past required seven people from seven different countries to attend Qatar for a hearing. Today, using digital conferencing to hold hearings is a much more efficient and reliable method for us as a court, as well as for users. This does not mean that we will not go back to holding physical hearings, although it is likely that a high percentage of hearings will continue to be conducted online. Regarding evidence, documentation, and identity checks, we have appropriate digital processes in place, although sometimes we also require hard copies and originals. However, the majority of our requirements are accommodated through our electronic systems.
What role can the rapid adoption of technologies play in the creation of an international hub for ADR centered in Doha?
STBAAT When the pandemic started on March 2020, many arbitrations were conducted online, and a digital transformation took place in the administration of arbitration procedures. The meeting between the Arbitral Tribunal and parties was also conducted by electronic means.
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