Qatar’s court system has introduced new guidelines for judges and law students, as well as adopted further online services in line with the country’s digital revolution.
The Supreme Judiciary Council (SJC) launched a new Code of Judicial Conduct in February, along with a new visual identity, on the sidelines of the second high-level meeting of the Global Judicial Integrity Network, which was held in Doha with the participation of many heads of international judicial councils.
The code has been issued to enhance the independence, impartiality, and competence of judges and their associates, the effectiveness of their procedures, and to establish the rule of law in a manner that enhances the confidence of litigants in the judiciary and its role in establishing completed justice with impartiality.
According to HE the President of the Supreme Judiciary Council and President of the Court of Cassation Dr Hassan Lahdan Saqr Al Mohannadi, ‘the SJC is working to develop the judicial sector in the country in line with the rational vision of the Amir, HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in achieving prompt justice.’
The code has been designed with the latest global developments and domestic legislation in mind as well as the Amir’s vision. It will set guiding principles and act as a reference for judges, as well as used by law students to enhance judicial integrity and can be referred to by members of the public.
The new code derives its basic reference principles from the provisions of Sharia (Islamic) law, the Permanent Constitution of the State of Qatar, the moral values of society, the law, values and traditions of the judiciary, and associated relevant international treaties and agreements.
This is supplemented with the new visual identity of the SJC, which reflects the basic principles upon which Qatar built its judicial system and the respect of the judiciary in achieving justice.
About the Supreme Judiciary Council
The Judicial Authority has been established and given its powers under the Permanent Constitution of the State of Qatar, and acts independently of all other authorities. It has jurisdiction over legal matters, to achieve justice and guarantee the rights and liberties of society.
The rule of law constitutes the basis of government in Qatar. Article 60 of the Permanent Constitution guarantees the judiciary procedural and structural independence that is unique and highly developed in accordance with the standards of modern state institutions. Article 135 of the Constitution asserts the right for all people to resort to the judiciary system and the courts.
The judiciary has general jurisdiction over criminal, civil, commercial, family, inheritance, administrative and other disputes, except sovereign acts and nationality matters. As per Article 130 of the Constitution, judicial authority is independent and vested in courts of different types and degrees. Judgments are issued in the name of HH the Amir.
The appointment of judges in Qatar is based on clear criteria that adhere to the principles of integrity and justice. A judge’s ethics and behaviour must be applied in both their working and personal life.
Judges are independent and they are only subject to law when exercising their judicial functions. There can be no interference whatsoever permitted with court proceedings and the course of justice, as per Article 131 of the Constitution. The Supreme Judiciary Council supervises the functioning of the courts of law and the achievement of independence of the judiciary (Article 137).
The Judicial Authority Law No 10 of 2003 and its various amendments have brought about a number of developments in Qatar’s judicial sector. Taking effect in October 2004, the 2003 law unified the country’s legal system.
The Council Structure
The SJC oversees three courts in Qatar:
Court of First Instance: Consists of the Criminal Court, the Civil Court, the Family Court, and the Execution Court. These are individual courts. Administrative matters are decided by the Administrative Circuit (not a separate court) of the Court of First Instance.
The court has a president and a number of chairs and judges. It has circuits to consider different cases: Hudod (limits); Qisas (retaliation in kind); Diya (compensation); criminal, civil and commercial matters; personal status matters; inheritance; administrative disputes; and more. The Execution Court enforces judgments retendered by the other courts and circuits.
SJC issues a resolution to form these circuits, and judgments are issued by three members. The Civil Court consists of the Plenary Courts (three judges) which preside over cases in which the claim is more than QAR500,000, and the Partial Courts (single judge) which deal with cases in which the claim amount is below this threshold. Administrative matters are decided by the Administrative Circuit with three judges presiding.
However, under Article 12 of the Judicial Authority Law the SJC can form one or more circuits with just one judge to issue a decision – a District Court. Civil and commercial lawsuits and dispute cases are also heard here. Under Family Law No 23 of 2006 and SJC Resolution No 23 of 2006, the Family Courts at the Court of First Instance can decide upon family and inheritance disputes. The Criminal Court has jurisdiction over crimes and Hudod, Qisas and Diya, as well as cases from Public Prosecution, at the (usually) single-judge Misdemeanour Court.
Court of Appeal: Responsible for deciding appeals filed against the judgments issued by the lower courts, and comprises three members.
Court of Cassation: This was introduced to Qatar for the first time under Judiciary Authority Law No 10 of 2003 and is the highest court in the country’s judicial system. The court has five members and decides upon the appeals filed against the judgment issued from the Court of Appeal. The Court of Cassation only rules on matters of law and does not re-examine the merits of a case before it. The Court of Cassation may either issue a ruling or remand the case back to a lower court. Rulings delivered by the Court of Cassation are final and cannot be challenged.
The Supreme Judiciary Council Online Services
There are a number of e-services available to businesses in several of the courts, and this will be implemented across the whole legal system by the end of 2020. Currently, e-service users can perform many legal procedures without having to visit the court in question. This ease of facilitating services, such as establishing a business, is designed to attract more foreign investment.
It is also part of Qatar Government Strategy 2020 under the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC), which states that all individuals and businesses will benefit from Qatar’s more open and connected government. SJC signed an agreement with MoTC in 2017 and targets more efficient litigation procedures and reduced waiting times.
At the moment, only judgments of the Court of Cassation are published and publicly available.
To learn more, visit sjc.gov.qa/en or call 109.
Author: Sarah Palmer
This article is from Marhaba Information Guide’s Issue No 77 Spring/Summer 2020.
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