Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press



Ahmed Al-Ahmed, Ilias Bantekas

Sophisticated legal systems compete with each other at a variety of levels. The prevalence of choice of law and choice of forum clauses favouring one state and its laws necessarily means its courts will entertain more cases in the future and there will be an increase in lawyers trained in its legal system. This in turn entails higher demand for courses in its law schools and more academics to teach relevant courses. The influx of litigants creates higher hospitality demands and more employment opportunities in the legal and other sectors, including finance, third-party funding and others. Contract law plays a big part in this equation because the globalization of laws and legal systems is chiefly driven by private laws and institutions. English contract law has become a standard feature of transnational commercial contracts, in part because of the global expansion of British legal education, the prevalence of the English language as the lingua franca of law, as well as because the status of London as a leading financial and legal hub for the rest of the world. At the same time, and in conjunction with the above, English private law is viewed by the legal community as a solid, yet flexible body of law that best serves private transactions irrespective of jurisdiction. It is no wonder that English contract law plays a key role in the courts and legislation of all special economic zones (SEZ) of the Gulf and Central Asia.

Be this as it may, there is a visible trend for countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to create strong and independent legal systems, albeit with a GCC imprint. While this process is not meant to thwart or obstruct the choice of English law in transnational contracts, as evidenced also by the prevalence of English law in their SEZ, governments in the GCC are keen to shift their dependence on foreign laws and institutions. Legal education has witnessed dramatic progress throughout the Gulf and with the emergence of large business opportunities, chiefly driven by oil and gas, legal work has increased manifold. So too has the development of a distinct Gulf contract law. Although originally inspired by the great Egyptian scholar Sanhuri who engineered the 1948 Egyptian Civil Code and whose students in turn drafted similar codes in the Gulf and the Arab world, contemporary contract laws in the Gulf retain their distinct character. This is true of all contemporary civil codes in the GCC and this process is further enhanced by a dynamic set of local courts that are not shy of making their mark and delivering powerful judgments, despite early shortcomings.

While Egyptian law and the judgments of its top courts have always played a significant influence in the laws, judgments and practice of GCC states, such influence is waning. The advent of US and European law firms and the proliferation of contracts governed by foreign law, as well as the increasing spread of the English language and Anglo-American legal education, has necessitated a fresh approach to the law and practice of contracts. Foreign lawyers might find it peculiar that despite the dominance of Islam in the constitutional laws and traditions of GCC states, Islamic law plays a trivial part in those countries’ private laws and civil codes. These codes are modelled and construed very much in the Western legal tradition, except for Saudi Arabia which does not possess a civil code. This unique blend of Anglo-American and Arab legal cultures has given rise to a discreet Gulf contract law that tries to emulate the key elements of its competitors in the West.

Contract Law of Qatar by Ilias Bantekas, Ahmed Al-Ahmed

About The Authors

Ahmed Al-Ahmed

Ahmed Al-Ahmed is a Former Legal Counsel at Qatar Energy and Former Senior Marketer at Qatar Petroleum for the Sale of Petroleum Products Company Limited. He has fifteen years of e...

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Ilias Bantekas

Ilias Bantekas is Professor of Transnational Law at Hamad bin Khalifa University (Qatar Foundation), College of Law and Adjunct Professor in the Edmund E. Walsh School of Foreign S...

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