Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre (QICDRC) has plans to expand its commercial court jurisdiction by resolving Islamic finance disputes too through a model framework which it is currently mulling over, its top executive said Monday. In an exclusive interview with the Qatar News Agency (QNA), QICDRC Chief Executive Officer Robert Musgrove said, "We are currently looking at the possibility of resolving Islamic finance disputes by setting up dispute resolution mechanism. To this objective we started a joint feasibility study with QICCA (Qatar International Chamber of Commerce Arbitration) last month. "With the increasing popularity of Islamic finance funds and schemes globally and specifically in the GCC, it would be ideal to have a mechanism in place to resolve disputes that would arise," he said. The Centre's expansion plan is timely. According to analysts, Islamic funds and investments are rapidly gaining popularity in the $1.3 Trillion worth of global Islamic finance market, gaining 6.1% share from over 650 funds spread all over the world. Talking about the Centre's role here Musgrove said, "We started as the Qatar Financial Centre Civil and Commercial Court as our initial jurisdiction focused on disputes coming out of the QFC. We continue to be the commercial court for the QFC, but in May 2012 the Qatar Cabinet agreed to use the official name Qatar International Court. "They also approved our overall trading name which is the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre. These new titles allow us to demonstrate publicly the broader range of our work that covers court, arbitration and mediation, and that we are able to accept international commercial disputes from bodies outside the QFC. "Whilst our primary jurisdiction continues to be financial disputes from the Qatar Financial Centre, our new name better defines not only the new-age court's commitment to provide the highest quality international standards in dispute resolution, but also Qatar's wider ambitions to promote strong rule of law, and world leading legal protection for international investment."
Asked to elaborate on the QICDRC being described as a new age court, the CEO replied, "The whole concept of a free floating international court and dispute resolution center is an exciting prospect for Qatar and this region. Conventional systems such as courts and arbitration are essentially institutional both nature and in operation. The QICDRC is a new-age, market-driven court where businesses choose it to get results quickly unlike institutional courts. "When Dubai announced its own consensual 'opt-in' jurisdiction to match our (Qatar) own, it made me think about the possibilities of market driven court systems. It is not an accident that this new way of thinking about commercial dispute resolution has started here in the Gulf". "All courts have to be institutional to some degree. They have to be tethered to State mechanisms for their ultimate judicial authority, and their access to State negotiated enforcement protocols. Apart from that there is much greater freedom in a court you have to choose to use, and this allows you to let market needs determine the types of dispute resolution services you offer. "It is possible to do this and also to maintain the independence essential to the fair and effective functioning of a legal system. The development of the QICDRC is very much based on what are the most effective and efficient vehicles for resolving high end commercial disputes. In order to achieve this you have to understand what your potential clients want. "Arbitration was a client and market driven initiative. It provided a privatized alternative to the court systems in the 1970's, and is still successful some 40 years later, possibly as a default option in lawyer's minds. It is perhaps that in recognition of the success of arbitration that it now appears to some as more institutional than the institution it sought to replace." Regarding the issues facing Qatar's legal framework, Musgrove said, "To me the biggest issue is the ability to move at the same pace as commercial and social development. Legal systems are not renowned for keeping up with societal change, which means that the recognition of the need to develop an international commercial court was a major commitment in ensuring Qatar was prepared for the reform that was about to take place. The timing was adept, as it provided some space to establish the court and dispute resolution center before the waves of reform hit.
"Qatar is working at every level on the reform of its legal framework. We are a major part of that, ensuring that truly international standards can be applied in dispute resolution and legal infrastructure. For example, the Qatar Chamber (previously known as Qatar International Chamber of Commerce) is working with a new senior team to develop effective arbitration for trade disputes. "Qatar's Arbitration Law is under Review, and I very much hope that something like the UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law) model law emerges as a further commitment to international benchmark standards. "The United Nations have shown great faith in Qatar by becoming a partner in the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Centre, that will provide both education to the region and also much needed support to the tireless efforts of the Attorney General, Dr Ali Al Marri, to ensure all business in Qatar is clean. "We are also working with partners including the Legal and Judicial Studies Centre of the Ministry of Justice, Qatar University and the American Bar Association in developing a strategy for the future of Judicial and Legal Education which should not only help develop international standards in judging and lawyering, but also set an example to the region. I doubt that there is much more genuine legal reform activity taking place anywhere else in the world at the moment. Both Qatar and Investors in Qatar will see the benefits of such commitment." On the number of cases the Court has heard and resolved, Musgrove said, "We have heard nine cases in the past year at first instance, two Regulatory Appeal Tribunal hearings, and the appeal circuit has sat under the President Lord Woolf. We have heard our first mediation, and also four large commercial arbitrations. Arbitration cases in particular look likely to keep the court busy." Asked how does the Court fit in with the Qatar National Vision 2030, he replied, "The QICDRC is leading the way in developing genuine international standards in law in Qatar and more widely in the region, through the example of its international judiciary, the world leading dispute resolution schemes for businesses, and also through its commitment to develop the highest standards in Judicial and Legal Education.
"The Qatar National Vision 2030 lays down a path of developing international benchmark standards in all professions in Qatar. Our commitment is to set those standards for lawyers and judges, with Qatar setting an example not only to its neighbors, but ultimately to the world." On how the court fits in with FIFA 2022 World Cup, the QICDRC Chief said, "One of the most exciting challenges is Qatar hosting the World Cup in 2022. This is not just a series of football matches, but a catalyst for many of the ambitious social reform and professional development programmes for Qatar. "In my view, it has the effect effective of bringing forward much of the Qatar National Vision from its original 2030 target. It is reported that there is $200 Billion of infrastructure investment delivering railways, roads, bridges, and residential and business infrastructure. This is an ambitious programme for what is still a young and developing nation." Asked what role the Court can play in this event, Musgrove said, "The Court, and in particular its ADR Centre will have a key role to play in providing support to the 2022 delivery. As part of our remit, we are developing specialist dispute resolution schemes which we hope will help in keeping the wheels of 2022 moving. "We are developing a fast track construction scheme called Q-Construct which will be available to all those companies engaged in international contracts for delivering infrastructure projects. International investors will be able to rely on what I hope will be a global leading mechanism, backed up by the oversight of an International court of the highest repute," he concluded.