|Ahmed El Amoury
A foreign construction company in Qatar recently won a
lawsuit in relation to a dispute with a local company. This
case is significant because the competent court applied and
upheld the principle of personal freedom and the rights of
movement set out in the Qatari Constitution. These hold that
personal freedom and the rights of movement outside the state
should not be restricted except in accordance with the law.
A local company (the claimant) filed a civil case against a
foreign company (the defendant) requesting the court to issue a
judgment obligating the defendant to pay a ratio of five
percent of the total sum of the contracted project, in addition
to compensation of QAR 1,000,000 (approximately $275, 000).
Simultaneously, the claimant submitted a request for the
court to impose a travel ban against the defendant's
representatives (the managers and authorised signatories). The
claimant's grounds for the request were that the defendant may
smuggle the company's assets outside Qatar. The competent judge
issued an order imposing a travel ban against the defendant's
The defendant's representatives (the petitioners) appealed
the decision regarding the imposition of the travel ban before
the court of first instance, based on the following
- the defendant, for which the petitioners
work, is one of the largest foreign construction companies,
maintains a high level of creditability and executes large
projects in Qatar. Thus, the fear that the defendant may
dissipate the defendant's assets was unreasonable;
- the order imposing the travel ban violated
article 36 of the Qatari Constitution. This stipulates that
personal freedom is guaranteed. No person may be arrested,
detained or searched, and his stay or his freedom of
residence or movement restricted except in accordance with
provisions of the law; and
- the defendant is a limited liability
company which has a separate legal personality independent of
its shareholders and so the shareholders are not responsible
for the company's debts. The Court of Cassation in appeal
number 37 of 2008 stated that a limited liability company has
its financial disclosure which is independent from its
partners' custody and hence the representative director of
this company has his own financial disclosure that is
independent from it. Thus, he is not responsible for its
debts and not asked to fulfil them with his own money.
In view of the above, the petitioners argued that the
court's order preventing them from travelling restricted their
freedom in breach of the principle of freedom of movement
guaranteed by the Qatari Constitution and the provisions of the
Commercial Companies law. The reasoning for this was
Firstly, the petitioners are not personally liable to the
claimant for the financial commitments of the defendant.
Therefore, even in the event the court issues a verdict against
the defendant, the petitioners should not be held responsible
for paying the value of this debt. Thus, the travel ban does
not guarantee any rights to the claimant.
Secondly, there is no merit to the claimant's claim and no
factual evidence was presented to support the claimant's
allegations. Hence, the travel ban constituted a violation of
the provisions of the Qatari Constitution, which requires a
high threshold for the instances under which the freedom of
persons may be restricted and confirms that such instances must
be kept to a minimum. The case at hand did not satisfy the
threshold of seriousness that must be applied in issuing a
travel ban, particularly because the claimant's request was not
based on any substantiated evidence.
Ruling of the court of first instance
The court of first instance accepted the petitioners'
arguments and issued a judgment revoking the travel ban based
on the following reasons:
- The claimed amount in this case was not
substantiated in fact to the petitioners personally.
- It was established that the defendant is a
credible company with a project value exceeding QAR 2 billion
(approximately $550 million). In addition, the project was
extended for an additional duration. Therefore, there was no
fear that the defendant may dissipate any of the claimant's
- The petitioners' arguments were legally correct since the
defendant has an independent juristic person separate from
its shareholders. Thus, the managers should not be held
personally responsible for the defendant's debts except in
the circumstances determined by the law.
- The freedom of movement is guaranteed by virtue of the
constitution; it is prohibited to place restrictions on this
freedom except for serious reasons.
The claimant did not submit an appeal for this judgment,
which therefore became final.
This judgment is a clear example of the court's application
of the provisions of the Qatari Constitution, which uphold a
person or persons' freedom of movement without any
restrictions. The judgment has confirmed that a travel ban
should be restricted to circumstances where there are serious
reasons justifying its imposition, such as if the debtor will
flee the country or transfer his assets outside Qatar. It
should be subject to the applicant's ability to provide
prima facie evidence that such risks exist. The
judgment should allay limited liability managers' fears that a
travel ban may be imposed against them for the debts or
liabilities of their company.
Ahmed El Amoury