Qaṭar: State Security Bureau imposes arbitrary travel bans on five citizens

12.04.21

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is deeply concerned that the State Security Bureau in Qatar has imposed arbitrary administrative orders that include travel bans on five Qatari citizens without any legal basis or following the necessary judicial procedures. These arbitrary orders have resulted in severe material and psychological damage to the five citizens, as one of them is still in prison for expressing on social networks his protest against the travel ban.

On 04 October 2020, the State Security Bureau arrested Mohammed Yousef Al-Sulaiti from his home and placed him in solitary confinement, due to a tweet on his Twitter account in which he protested the arbitrary order to prevent him from travelling. His Twitter account disappeared after his arrest and he is still being detained in a prison belonging to the State Security Bureau.

Al-Sulaiti had been living in the United States since 2015, where he owned two businesses, a restaurant and a grocery store. On 17 July 2018, the State Security Bureau arrested him at Hamad International Airport while he was on his way to Turkey. He was detained for more than five months, during which time he was placed in solitary confinement. He was only released on 22 December 2018, but he was banned from travelling and unable to return to the US to continue his work. In January 2019, using the Ministry of Interior's application (Metrash), he confirmed that he was not banned from traveling, so he bought a ticket to return to the US, but the General Department of Passports at the Ministry of Interior informed him that he was still banned from travelling by order of the Public Prosecution, without giving him the actual reasons.

On 16 August 2020, he submitted a request to meet the Public Prosecutor in addition to a petition requesting his travel ban be lifted. The two requests were rejected, despite the fact that he clarified his need to return in order to liquidate his property and return to his homeland. The travel ban has caused severe psychological and material damage to him.  

On 18 April 2016, Saoud Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al-Thani, a member of the extended ruling family who does not have government responsibilities, was banned from travelling based on a directive issued by the National Command Centre at the Ministry of Interior, on the orders of the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior at the time, Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al-Thani. On 03 January 2018, in a video published on YouTube, he appealed to the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, to allow him to travel outside the country for medical examinations, but his request, despite its legitimacy, was rejected.

On 01 April 2019, he filed a complaint with the Administrative Court of First Instance to challenge the travel ban issued by the Ministry of Interior. Following this complaint, the Ministry of Interior decided to cancel its order preventing him from travelling. Despite this, and instead of allowing him to travel, the State Security Bureau issued an order that included a travel ban on 02 May 2019.

Since then, he followed all the legal paths available to him, and his case went through several judicial stages and before many courts until a hearing was set to consider the order banning him from travelling before the Court of Cassation on 01 June 2021. The Court of Cassation is the highest judicial authority in Qatar, and its decision is final. It will consider his complaint against both the Ministry of Interior and the State Security Bureau, which includes his request to lift the travel ban and compensate him for all damages incurred since 2016.

On 26 June 2017, the Capital Security Administration informed Dr. Najeeb Mohammed Al-Nuaimi, a human rights lawyer, that the travel ban previously imposed on him on 07 January 2017 had been renewed despite the fact that the Appeal Court in Qatar revoked it on 30 May 2017.

On 08 January 2017, he received a text message from the Public Prosecution, that includes his ID number, confirming a travel ban against him without explaining the actual reasons.

Dr. Al-Nuaimi is a well-known human rights lawyer who voluntarily defended prisoners of conscience in Qatar including poet Mohamed Rashid Al-Ajami. Al-Ajami was handed down a life sentence in 2011, which was reduced to 15 years in prison, because of a poem he wrote. He was released in 2016 after serving five years in prison.

On 28 April 2018, Dr. Al-Nuaimi released an explanatory statement in which he stated, "In order to obstruct me and cause an altercation, the Attorney General of Qatar issued a decree preventing me from leaving the country and then made a malicious complaint against me. ... I resorted to the judiciary, which was fair with me by acquitting me of the charges of slander made by the Attorney General, and the Court of Appeal issued a decision to cancel the travel ban issued against me."

He added, "But the Attorney General, with government approval, has continued to flagrantly violate the principles of the Constitution and Qatari laws, and has grossly violated the human rights for which they hold international conferences in Qatar, and applied on me a blockade that exceeds the blockade imposed on Qatar."

Reliable local sources confirmed to GCHR that the case of Dr. Al-Nuaimi is a complex one related to his activities in the field of human rights, and that it has returned again to the arena of the Qatari judiciary, where the Misdemeanor Court is scheduled to issue a verdict at the end of this month.

Abdullah Bin Ahmed Bu Matar Al-Muhannadi, 58 years of age, was placed on a travel ban as of 01 September 2013 by the State Security Bureau, which also put security restrictions and monitoring on the use if his ID card, which is necessary to complete various transactions according to the procedures in force in the country. He had a commercial group in the name of Al-Ramadi Group for Trading and Contracting, a company of 31 branches working in all fields.

In 2007, the Ministry of Interior summoned him for interrogation after he published on social media criticism of government corruption, in particular the Ministry of Interior, and the absence of the rule of law. He was detained for three weeks at the end of 2007, after which he was released on bail. After further investigations with him in 2008, the Ministry of Interior decided to close the case permanently and not refer it to the Qatari judiciary.

On 18 November 2018, Al-Muhannadi received an official text message that contained his ID number and informed him of the lifting of the travel ban, but when he tried on 02 January 2019 to travel, he was informed at Hamad International Airport by the competent authorities that he was prohibited from travelling by order of the State Security Bureau. They gave him the order number banning him from travelling, but they did not give him a copy of the travel ban.

He met a large number of officials and submitted requests to various competent authorities in order to lift the ban or explain its reasons, but to no avail. At the beginning of 2021, his case was transferred to the State Security Prosecution. Due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, he submitted an electronic request to the State Security Prosecution, which refused his request without giving the reasons or referring the request to the judiciary, and thus the travel ban against him remains in place.

In recent years, Al-Muhannadi liquidated and closed his company due to the severe security restrictions imposed on his personal ID card, which disrupted all his transactions in state departments and banks, leading to losses in the millions. It also prevented him from carrying out any commercial or social activity, without knowing the reasons behind the continued arbitrary travel ban against him, which also caused him additional psychological pain.

Abdulaziz Bin Mohammed Bin Saoud Al-Abdulrahman Al-Thani, a member of the extended ruling family who does not have government responsibilities, known on social media as the "Prince of Time", posted a video on 17 March 2021, on his YouTube account, in which he said that he was living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where he was married to an Emirati woman and they have a boy and two daughters. He was a successful businessman there. He was ordered to return by the Qatari government after the crisis between some Gulf countries, including the UAE and Qatar. He returned "in compliance with the orders of the Emir of Qatar," as he said in his speech on 16 July 2017 while boarding a private plane, and since that time he has been banned from travelling. He also said, "I appeal to the honourable people to convey my message to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad."

On his Twitter account, there are several tweets of solidarity with him, appealing to the Emir of Qatar to lift the travel ban on him and reunite him with his children, using the hashtag #Support_the_the_prince_of_time.

These arbitrary travel bans are inconsistent with Article 36 of the Qatari Constitution, which states that, "Personal freedom shall be guaranteed and no person may be arrested, detained or searched, neither may his freedom of residence and mobility be restricted, save under the provisions of the Law."

GCHR strongly believes that the law governing the State Security Bureau that gives it an exceptional and highly problematic level of discretionary power to deprive from rights or detain any citizen should be revoked and amended to protect the civil and human rights of all citizens. The duty of security forces must be to protect people and not put them in prison or impose illegal travel bans on them.

GCHR calls on the authorities in Qatar to free Mohammed Yousef Al-Sulaiti immediately and grant these five citizens currently under travel ban their right to freedom of movement.