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State of Qatar

Human Rights Overview

Despite the government stated commitment and passing law offering migrant works better legal protections, the government failed to implement and enforce reforms. The authorities continued to curtail freedom of expression using abusive laws to stifle critical voices. Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice. No execution is reported. Same- sex sexual conduct between men remained an offense under the penal code, punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment.

In July 2021, the emir ratified a law paving the way for the first Shura Council (an advisory body that acts as a quasi- parliament) to elect 30 of its 45 members. However,  the law excluded Qataris whose grandfathers were not born in Qatar from voting or standing for election.  The election was held on October 2nd, 2021. No women were elected. The remaining 15 seats were appointed by the Emir, among them two women. Qatar’s Shura Council was established in 1972, following the passing of the Amended Provisional Basic Law of Rule in the State of Qatar.

 

Migrant Workers’ Rights

In August 2020, the Emir signed a series of laws setting a non-discriminatory minimum wage that must be revised annually, and two others abolishing the necessity for migrant workers to obtain the “No-Objection Certificate” from their employer to change jobs. The new legislation enabled workers to change jobs freely through an online process led by the Minister of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs (MADLSA).  In addition, in 2019 MADLSA announced the abolishment of the kafala (sponsorship) system.

Despite the government’s ongoing efforts to reform Qatar’s labor system, abuses remain rife across the country. While conditions have improved for some workers, thousands are still facing issues such as delayed or unpaid wages, denial of rest days, unsafe working conditions, barriers to changing jobs, and limited access to justice, while the deaths of thousands of workers remain uninvestigated. Although a fund has started to pay out significant amounts to workers who have had wages stolen, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have still not been compensated for labor abuses faced in the past decade.

Forced labor and other forms of abuse continue unabated, particularly in the private security sector and for domestic workers, most of whom are women. The payment of  extortionate recruitment fees to secure jobs remains widespread, with sums ranging between US$1,000 and US$3,000. It takes many workers months or even years to repay the debt, which ultimately traps them in cycles of exploitation.

In a recent report Amnesty International said that FIFA should earmark at least $440 million to provide remedy for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who have suffered human rights abuses in Qatar during preparations for the 2022 World Cup. The sum of $440 million is likely to be the minimum necessary to cover an array of compensation costs and to support initiatives to protect workers’ rights in the future, Amnesty International has estimated. For more information about the human rights abuses faced by migrant workers in Qatar, see here.

FIFA is still failing to fulfill its human rights responsibilities by refusing to clearly commit to compensate migrant workers and their families for abuses while preparing and delivering the World Cup 2022 tournament in Qatar. This is despite FIFA officials having said earlier that they were working on a plan to ensure workers were compensated.

Qatari authorities have also failed to provide disaggregated details about the announced US$350 million reimbursed to migrant workers for wage theft, despite repeated requests by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. In addition, research has also shown that victims’ access to existing compensation mechanisms is rife with obstacles, payments are capped, and that it is nearly impossible for workers or families to apply after they have returned to their home countries.

 

Migrant women domestic workers

Migrant domestic workers, mostly women, continued to face severe forms of abuse without access to a remedy despite the Domestic Workers Law introduced in 2017. Many employers made women work an average of 16 hours a day, denied them rest, prevented them from taking a day off in the week, and confiscated their passports despite this being illegal. These abuses took place in a climate of complete impunity for perpetrators. The only shelter, established in 2019, to offer refuge for domestic workers fleeing abuse and exploitation was not fully operational, making it even more difficult for them to leave an abusive workplace, let alone press charges against their employer.

 

Freedom of Expression

Authorities continued to curtail freedom of expression using abusive laws to stifle critical voices. Malcolm Bidali, a Kenyan national, who was forcibly disappeared by Qatari authorities on May 4, 2021 and held in solitary confinement for a month, has finally been allowed to leave the country on August 16, 2021 after paying a hefty fine for his human rights activism. The 28-year-old was a security guard, blogger and activist, who has been vocal about the plight of migrant workers like himself, and has written for a number of online platforms.

Abdullah Ibhais, Jordanian national, the former communications director for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organizers the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, was initially arrested on November 12, 2019 on charges of misuse of public funds, bribery, collusion to commit bribery, and causing harm to the Supreme Committee. He was detained for nearly six weeks, and for the first nine days was denied access to a lawyer. He was released from detention on 21 December 2019 and subjected to an unfair trial based on a “confession” obtained through threat and coercion.  On December 2021, the appeal court upheld a guilty verdict and sentenced him to three years in prison.

In early August, members of tribes, mainly the al-Murra tribe, protested against their exclusion from Shura Council elections; and a number of them were arrested. Many were released upon signing a pledge, promising not to speak out about their detention and to stop criticizing the new law or calling for their rights. Hazza and Rashed bin Ali Abu Shurayda al-Marri refused to sign the pledge. On May 10, 2022 the Qatari Criminal Court of First Instance convicted and sentenced brothers and lawyers Hazza and Rashed bin Ali Abu Shurayda al-Marri to life in prison on charges including contesting laws ratified by the Emir and organizing unauthorized public meetings. The two other Qatari men tried in absentia are poets Mohammed Hamad Mohammed Ftais al-Marri who was sentenced to a 15-year prison term, and Mohammed Rashed Hassan Nasser al-Ajami, also known as Ibn al-Dheeb, who received a life sentence. The latter is a former prisoner on whose behalf Amnesty International had campaigned. The Al Murra tribe is one of the largest tribes in eastern Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Its members have long faced severe discrimination and been deprived from access to education, employment, and health care.

 

Women’s Rights

Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice. Under guardianship system, women remained tied to their male guardian, usually their father, brother, grandfather, uncle, or husband for married women. Family law continued to discriminate against women, including by making it much harder for them to seek a divorce, severely disadvantaging them economically if they sought a divorce or their husband left them.

 

LGBT Rights

Qatari laws discriminate against LGBT people. Article 296(3) of the Penal Code, criminalizes a range of same-sex consensual sexual acts, including potential jail terms for anyone who “leads or induces or tempts a male, by any means, into committing an act of sodomy or debauchery”. Similarly, Article 296(4) criminalizes anyone who “induces or tempts a male or female, by any means, into committing acts contrary to morals or that are unlawful”.

In October 2022, human rights organizations documented cases in which security forces arrested LGBT individuals in public places — based solely on their gender expression — and searched their phones. They also said it was mandatory for transgender women detainees to attend conversion therapy sessions as a requirement for their release.

 

Death Penalty

After two-decade of no execution, in May 2020, Qatar put to death a Nepali migrant worker.

In February 2021, the emir halted the execution of a Tunisian man convicted of murder. No execution has been reported since May 2020.

Qatar Newsroom




May 18, 2022 • Report

FIFA Should Match $440M World Cup Prize Money to Fund Major Compensation Program for Abused Migrant Workers in Qatar

FIFA should earmark at least $440M to provide remedy for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who have suffered human rights abuses in Qatar during preparations for the 2022 World Cup, Amnesty International said in a new report today, six months ahead of the tournament's opening game.

February 26, 2019 • Report

Human rights in the Middle East and North Africa: A review of 2018

The international community’s chilling complacency towards wide-scale human rights violations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has emboldened governments to commit appalling violations during 2018 by giving them …

February 4, 2019 • Report

Qatar: Authorities must step up efforts to honour labour rights promises before 2022 World Cup

With less than four years to go until the 2022 World Cup, the Qatari authorities risk falling behind on their promise to tackle widespread labour exploitation of thousands of migrant workers, Amnesty International said today.

September 25, 2018 • Report

Qatar: Migrant workers unpaid for months of work by company linked to World Cup host city

A new investigation by Amnesty International has exposed how an engineering company involved in building 2022 FIFA World Cup infrastructure took advantage of Qatar’s notorious sponsorship system to exploit scores of migrant workers. The company, Mercury MENA, failed to pay its workers thousands of dollars in wages and work benefits, leaving them stranded and penniless in Qatar.

December 9, 2016 • Report

New name, old system? Qatar’s new employment law and abuse of migrant workers

Changes to labor laws in Qatar barely scratch the surface and will continue to leave migrant workers, including those building stadiums and infrastructure for the World Cup, at the mercy of exploitative bosses and at risk of forced labor, said Amnesty International in a new briefing.

March 29, 2016 • Report

The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game

Migrant workers building Khalifa International Stadium in Doha for the 2022 World Cup have sufferedsystematic abuses, in some cases forced labour, Amnesty International reveals in a new report published today.

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

May 20, 2015 • Report

Promising Little, Delivering Less: Qatar and Migrant Labor Abuse Ahead of the 2022 Football World Cup

More than a year after Qatar’s government promised limited reforms to improve migrant labor rights, hopes of true progress are fading fast, says Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

November 10, 2014 • Report

No Extra Time: How Qatar is Still Failing on Workers’ Rights Ahead of the World Cup

Qatar’s authorities are lagging severely behind on efforts to address the rampant abuse of migrant workers’ rights, despite the government's announcement of a series of reforms to tackle exploitation ahead of the 2022 World Cup. "No Extra Time: How Qatar is Still Failing on Workers’ Rights Ahead of the World Cup" sets out how the Qatari government has failed to reform the systems that facilitate the abuse of migrant workers and has made only minimal progress on a number of plans it announced in May 2014.

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