Qatar's New Mediation Law: Scope, Summary and Advantages
This article discusses Qatar’s new Mediation Law. Qatar Law No. 20/2021 on the Issuance of the Law on Mediation in the Settlement of Civil and Commercial Disputes (the Mediation Law) was issued on 4 November 2021. We set out below the scope, a summary and the notable advantages of Qatar’s new Mediation Law.
Scope of the Mediation Law
Article 2 of the Mediation Law sets out its scope. It states that the Mediation Law shall apply to mediations conducted in Qatar (unless the parties agree otherwise) and where the parties agree to apply the Mediation Law to their dispute.
In addition, the Mediation Law applies where the court requests the parties to settle their dispute through mediation (subject to the agreement of the parties). However, under Article 15 of the Mediation Law, if either party objects to mediation, the court case will continue. This underscores that mediation can only be conducted by agreement of the parties under the Mediation Law.
Article 3 of the Mediation Law set outs the situations where the Mediation Law does not apply. These include urgent and temporary lawsuits; disputes involving Qatar energy; disputes related to tax assessments; matters in which conciliation is not possible and/or where there is an arbitration or any other alternative dispute resolution agreement in place (unless the parties agree otherwise).
Summary of the key elements of the Mediation Law
The Mediation Law underscores that both parties must agree to mediation and that no party can be compelled to mediate disputes, absent agreement to do so. The Mediation Law contains 33 articles in total that govern and regulate mediation agreements and mediation proceedings, including the:
- Requirements of a mediation agreement;
- Identity, requirements and number of mediators;
- Selection, termination and/or replacement of the mediator(s);
- Role of the mediator(s);
- Confidentiality of the mediation;
- Requirements of the settlement agreement reached as a result of mediation;
- Termination of the mediation proceedings;
- Liability of the mediator(s); and
- Role of the competent court in relation to mediation proceedings.
The above provisions of the Mediation Law are summarized below.
Finally, the Mediation Law also sets out the role of the competent court in relation to mediation proceedings in Qatar. In particular, the Mediation Law empowers the court to:
- Appoint a mediator under Article 8;
- Recuse a mediator under Article 11(3);
- Terminate the mediator under Article 13;
- Request the parties to resolve their dispute through mediation under Article 15 (subject to the agreement of the parties);
- Refer a dispute to mediation under Article 16 (subject to agreement of the parties);
- Dismiss a court case (and impose a fine on the plaintiff) where there is a mediation agreement in place under Article 18;
- Impose a fine between one and twenty thousand Qatari riyals on a party that refuses to comply with a settlement agreement and require that party to pay compensation to the other party under Article 19; and
- Determine the mediator’s fees in the event of disagreement between the parties under Article 21.
Notable Advantages of the Mediation Law in Encouraging Mediation in Qatar
It is likely that the Mediation Law will encourage parties to settle (or at least consider settling) their disputes through mediation in Qatar. Several provisions of the Mediation Law provide clear advantages to mediation. For example:
- Deters parties from seeking to sidestep a mediation agreement: notably, under Article 18 of the Mediation Law, if a plaintiff commences a case in court for which there is already a mediation agreement, then the court: (a) shall dismiss the case (if the defendant submits a plea of the same); and (b) can impose a fine on the plaintiff equal to double the fees for filing the lawsuit. This is clearly intended to deter parties from seeking to sidestep a mediation agreement by filing a lawsuit and encourages mediation in doing so.
- Fines imposed for refusal to abide with of settlement agreement reached in mediation: also noteworthy, under Article 19 of the Mediation Law, where one of the parties refuses to abide by the settlement agreement that was reached as a result of the mediation, the competent court can impose a fine on the defaulting party between one and twenty thousand Qatari riyals, which includes compensation to the counterparty for expenses and fees. Similarly, under Article 27, the court can impose a fine on a plaintiff that files a lawsuit related to the subject matter of a settlement agreement between twenty and fifty thousand Qatari riyals. These provisions are clearly intended to deter parties from reneging on a settlement agreement and encourages mediation in doing so.
- Exemption from payment of judicial fees: another way in which the Mediation Law seeks to encourage mediation is that if a lawsuit is settled by means of mediation, the party responsible for paying the judicial fees is exempted from paying them under Article 17 of the Mediation Law.
- Expedited mediation proceedings: Article 20 of the Mediation Law seeks to expedite mediation proceedings by requiring the mediator to complete the mediation proceedings in no more than 30 days (which can be extended with the agreement of the parties). Similarly, Article 23 requires the mediator to take into account the need to resolve the dispute in the shortest possible time period.
- Mediation proceedings kept confidential: all deliberations, discussions, offers, negotiations, and documents related to the mediation are now confidential by default and any unauthorized disclosure or violation of this confidentiality is subject to a fine of at least twenty thousand Qatari riyals under Article 30 of the Mediation Law.
- Qualifications and requirements of mediators: mediators must have certain minimum qualifications and ethical requirements under Article 5 of the Mediation Law, including being fully competent, being of good conduct and reputation, being known for integrity, impartiality and expertise, and not have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude or dishonesty.
- Prescription periods suspended: the commencement of mediation procedures will suspend the legally prescribed prescription period(s) for filing a lawsuit under Article 22 of the Mediation Law.
- Appointment of experts in mediation: mediators may seek the assistance of an expert (presumably for technical matters) under Article 23 of the Mediation Law.
- Electronic submissions: finally, mediation can be commenced, and all procedures can be undertaken through electronic means and this will have the same binding force as hard-copies of written submissions under Article 33 of the Mediation Law. This should reduce costs, simplify and accelerate the process.
The above advantages are likely to secure more confidence and optimism in mediation proceedings in Qatar and encourage parties to use mediation as an alternative, less confrontational, dispute resolution mechanism to resolve disputes. Should mediation fail to resolve the dispute between the parties, Article 29 of the Mediation Law states that the parties may nevertheless file a lawsuit in the competent court. In other words, litigation still remains an option under the Mediation Law.