Annual Report: Qatar 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Qatar 2013

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State of Qatar

Head of state Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani

Head of government Shaikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr

Freedom of expression continued to be curtailed. New cases of torture emerged. Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice, as well as violence. Foreign migrant workers, who comprised the majority of the workforce, were exploited, abused and inadequately protected under the law. At least one death sentence was imposed; no executions were reported.

Freedom of expression

The authorities maintained strict controls on freedom of expression, and moved to tighten these further with a new draft media law. If approved, this would require all publications to be approved by a government-appointed “competent authority” empowered to remove content or prevent printing.

  • The poet Mohammed al-Ajami, also known as Mohamed Ibn al-Dheeb, who was charged with “inciting to overthrow the ruling regime” and “insulting the Amir” was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Doha Criminal Court on 29 November. His poems criticized repression in the Gulf States. He was detained incommunicado following his arrest in November 2011 and appeared to be a prisoner of conscience. He appealed against his conviction.

Migrant workers' rights

Foreign migrant workers, who comprised more than 90% of Qatar's workforce, continued to be exploited and abused by employers despite protective provisions set out in the 2004 Labour Law and related decrees, which the authorities failed to adequately enforce. Workers' living conditions were often grossly inadequate and many workers said they were made to work excessive hours beyond the legal maximum or were paid far less than agreed when they were contracted.

Migrant domestic workers, mostly women, and certain other workers were specifically excluded from the 2004 Labour Law, exposing them to greater labour exploitation and abuse, including sexual abuse. The government had previously committed to enact legislation to address this problem but it had not done so by the end of the year.

The 2009 Sponsorship Law, which requires foreign workers to obtain a sponsor's permission to leave Qatar or change employer, was exploited by employers to prevent workers from complaining to the authorities or moving to a new job in the event of abuse. The sponsorship system increased the likelihood of workers being subjected to forced labour. In October the state news agency reported that the Cabinet would form a panel to study the sponsorship issue.

Discrimination – denial of nationality

Some 100 people, mostly members of al-Murra tribe who were arbitrarily stripped of their Qatari nationality in previous years, continued to be denied access to employment, social security and health care due to their statelessness. They were not permitted to challenge the decision to revoke their nationality in the courts and were denied any means of remedy.

Torture and other ill-treatment

New cases of torture and other ill-treatment emerged.

  • Following their release, Abdullah al-Khawar and Salem al-Kawari alleged that while detained without charge or trial as security suspects in 2011, they were beaten, suspended by their limbs and made to remain standing for hours at a time, deprived of sleep, held in solitary confinement in tiny cells, and subjected to cold temperatures for long periods while interrogators sought to obtain “confessions” from them. The authorities took no steps to investigate their allegations or bring the perpetrators to justice.

In November, following its review of Qatar's implementation of the UN Convention against Torture, the UN Committee against Torture urged the government to ensure that the fundamental safeguards required by the Convention were applied in practice to all persons deprived of their liberty, including by ensuring that complaints of abuse were promptly and impartially examined and that detainees could challenge the legality of their detention or treatment.

Discrimination and violence against women

Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice and were inadequately protected against violence within the family. In particular, family law discriminated against women, making it much easier for men to seek divorce compared to women, and placing women at a severe economic disadvantage if they sought divorce or if their husbands left them.

Death penalty

At least one death sentence was imposed, on a Sri Lankan man convicted of murder; no executions were reported. Prisoners on death row included at least six men sentenced to death in 2001 for participating in a 1996 plot to overthrow the government.

Amnesty International visits/reports

  • Amnesty International delegates visited Qatar in October.
  • Qatar: Briefing to the United Nations Committee against Torture (MDE 22/001/2012)
  • Qatar should take steps to end use of torture and other ill-treatment (MDE 22/003/2012)