QICCA Arbitrations in COVID-19
Jun 28, 2020
Ahmed Durrani, Associate
Fairoze Hoque, Paralegal
In these unprecedented times, when the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm and adversely impacted global economies, the virus has also affected the legal profession, including the arbitration practice. In particular, arbitral institutions have been compelled to work remotely and to encourage arbitrating parties to do the same; and the Qatar International Centre for Conciliation and Arbitration (QICCA) is no different.
On March 17, 2020, March 26, 2020 and April 27, 2020, QICCA issued circulars to its users and members, and to lawyers and other parties. Those circulars, in summary, notified the relevant parties that QICCA officials would be working remotely until further notice, and only a limited number of its employees would be attending its offices – daily between 10 am and 12 pm – in order to receive those submissions and documents which are otherwise impossible to deliver by electronic means.
QICCA has also urged the tribunals operating under its auspices to direct parties to use electronic means to communicate with them and other parties, further to the powers given to the tribunals under Articles 18.1 and 18.2 of the QICCA Rules. In a similar vein, parties are encouraged to submit their notices of arbitration, pleadings and other submissions via email. Where this is impossible, parties can submit the same in soft copy using a portable storage device, such as a USB flash drive. Tribunals and parties are also advised to conduct hearings, whether procedural or evidentiary, via video conferencing.
These measures are aimed at safeguarding the health and safety of QICCA’s employees, as well as of the concerned tribunals and parties, without obstructing or delaying the arbitral process. This is a legitimate concern that parties are expected to have, and QICCA has ensured that it continues to deliver its administrative services in the most efficient manner possible and in keeping with the directives of the governmental authorities, such as the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Interior.
It has been observed that parties and arbitral tribunals are generally adhering to QICCA’s directions, particularly by communicating electronically and conducting online hearings via various video conferencing applications. Recently, a Tribunal in a QICCA arbitration (i) conducted procedural hearings via a video link; (ii) dispensed with the requirement to have all the attendees of those procedural hearings physically to sign the minutes thereof (signature of the minutes of a hearing by all the attendees is a standard practice in QICCA arbitrations); and (iii) directed the attendees to provide their approval of the minutes of the hearings via email. In this way, the Tribunal ensured that its requirements are met without unnecessarily delaying or disrupting the proceedings.