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Posted On: 21 November 2010 12:36 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:10 pm

Qatari court experts plead own case

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Some 235 experts from various fields are registered with the Qatari courts, which rely on their technical evaluations and expert opinion to decide legal disputes. But nearly 50 percent of them are expatriates and specialisations such as engineering, audit and accountancy are completely dominated by them. Some Qatari experts complain that the expatriates’ services are sought by the courts to decide important cases and they are paid handsomely for their expertise, while the nationals are roped in only for insignificant cases and are paid a pittance. They say a committee should be formed by the courts and only qualified citizens should be its members and this panel should be authorised to appoint experts if their services are required to decide a legal dispute. “As a matter of rule, all experts registered with the courts must be nationals and they must all be practising professionals, not arm-chair employees of private companies or government agencies,” says Mohamed Sultan Al Ali, a certified accountant who owns an audit and accountancy office. According to him, the risk in having an expatriate as an expert in a court case is that he can leave the country for good while the litigation is on. “It is public knowledge that court cases take a long time to be decided,” he said. Citing an example, he said an expatriate expert collected a whopping QR500,000 as fee in an important litigation but for some pressing reasons he had to leave the country for good midway. “So we must have Qatari experts to avoid such situations,” Al Ali said in remarks to The Peninsula yesterday. The courts register experts from different disciplines who are either private or government employees so there is always the risk that they can be pressured to be biased. To preempt such a possibility, only professionals having independent practice should be put on the panel of experts by the courts, he said. Another major problem, according to reliable sources, is that the services of only a few of the court experts are frequently sought while the others are ignored. “To end this favouritism, the system of choosing an expert for litigations must be computerised,” said Al Ali. Registered with the courts since 2004, Al Ali said he had been invited to make evaluations in just two court cases in the past six years. “And I haven’t been paid more than QR1,050 for a case,” he said. According to another court expert, Abdullah Mohanna Al Rumaihi, who specialises in real estate, monetary compensations given to court experts are nominal. “We actually work to help resolve a legal dispute on humanitarian grounds,” he said. Yet another court expert, Engineer Khalid Saeed Al Kaabi, the monetary compensation given away by a court to an expert does not match the hard and expert work he is required to do. “Our work is sensitive and very hard,” he told this newspaper. And depending on the nature of a legal dispute a court sometimes appoints a whole committee of experts. Such litigations where more than one expert is required are usually financial in nature, he says. Court experts say they are required to take oath that they would be doing justice to a case before being appointed to make estimations in a litigation, but their registrations are not periodically renewed. “Once you are registered as an expert, that’s it. What happens if a few years later you move out of the country or shift to another profession? So the registrations must all be renewed at regular intervals,” suggests the expert asking not to be named. “The distribution of cases to experts is unjust and for this the judicial system is to blame, so it must be regulated,” he said. All the experts this newspaper spoke to said there must be standard criteria for the appointment of court experts and aside from their qualifications, the number of years they are in the profession should be specified. Experts say there are currently no criteria and the appointments are made rather haphazardly.