Qaṭar: Government must abide by human rights commitments before 2022 FIFA World Cup

17.11.22

Despite the imminent opening of the FIFA World Cup on 20 November 2022, the Qatari government continues to commit grave violations of the civil and human rights of citizens and migrant workers, and no serious signs of reform are on the horizon. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) reiterates its calls for the authorities to respect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and to guarantee that migrant workers are treated fairly. GCHR has documented numerous human rights violations, as follows.

Appeals court upholds life imprisonment sentences

On 31 October 2022, the Qatar Criminal Court of Appeal confirmed the life imprisonment sentences handed down to a number of human rights activists.

On 19 May 2022, the Criminal Court, Second Circuit, issued a sentence of life imprisonment against lawyer Dr. Hazzaa bin Ali Abu Shraydeh Al-Marri, who was arrested on 10 August 2021, and lawyer Rashid bin Ali Abu Shraydeh Al-Marri, his brother, who was arrested the next day.

For more information on their case, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/3012

They are likely to file the case again before the Court of Cassation, which is the highest level of litigation in Qatar. However, due to the full control of the State Security Apparatus over the judiciary and official institutions in Qatar, local observers do not expect any positive change in the initial sentences issued.

Internet activists imprisoned for their peaceful activities

On 22 September 2022, the State Security Apparatus released Internet activist Issa Mardi Juhaim Al-Shammari whilst continuing to arbitrarily detain Internet activists Abdullah bin Ahmed Bu Matar Al-Mohannadi and Saud bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al-Thani.

On 21 July 2022, the State Security Apparatus simultaneously arbitrarily arrested the three activists due to their peaceful activities on social media. The activists attracted the ire of the authorities and became a target after they announced the establishment of the “National Campaign for Travel-Banned Citizens” on 12 July 2022. The Campaign, which organises various social media activities, includes a number of citizens who have been arbitrarily prevented from traveling for many years. The three citizens subjected to arbitrary detention were among its members and attended its founding meeting, which was documented by GCHR.

During the founding meeting, Al-Mohannadi was elected to be the general coordinator of the campaign, Al-Thani to carry out the duties of its international relations coordinator, and Al-Shammari to be its media coordinator.

GCHR has also previously documented the grave violations committed against them. A travel ban was imposed on both Al-Mohannadi and Al-Thani, while all personal documents belonging to Al-Shammari have been confiscated since October 2014. Thus, he has been deprived of all his rights as he is prohibited from getting married, obtaining employment, accessing Medicare, and cannot even get a mobile phone chip. Despite his release, his status has never changed, and he is still deprived of all his rights as a law-abiding citizen.

So far, no explanations for these arbitrary measures have been provided. The three citizens have turned to the Qatari courts to assert their rights, but to no avail due to the insistence of the State Security Apparatus to continue violating their rights, and its absolute control over the judiciary.

Citizens arbitrarily banned from traveling

In addition to Al-Mohannadi and Al-Thani, a travel ban has been imposed by the State Security Apparatus on many citizens, including:

Qatari citizen Abdulaziz bin Mohammed bin Saud Al-Abdulrahman Al-Thani, a member of the extended ruling family who does not have government responsibilities, is known on social media as the "Prince of Time". He is travel banned since July 2017.

Qatari citizen Mohammed Abdulrahman Mubarak Al-Thani, a member of the extended ruling family who is currently without government responsibilities, has been banned from travel since March 2018, without knowing the reasons for this ban, which caused him great material and moral damage. Despite his repeated pleas, the Qatari authorities have remained definitively silent. GCHR received reports that he was arrested by the State Security Apparatus on 24 July 2022, after he was elected as the director of the National Campaign for Travel-Banned Citizens mentioned above. He was assaulted in front of his children during his arrest.

Saudi citizen Mohammed Mishaan Al-Shammari has property and a commercial company in Qatar, in which he owns 49% of shares, but on 13 November 2021, he was prevented from entering Qatar through the Salwa land border crossing. Then, in December 2021, the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in an official letter to the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that the State of Qatar had decided to prevent him from entering Qatari territory, without giving any reasons.

Mohammed Yousef Al-Sulaiti, a Qatari citizen with US residency, has been banned from travel by the authorities since 2018 and detained since October 2020. Local reports confirmed that he was sentenced to life imprisonment on 12 June 2021, and that he is serving his sentence in the Central Prison in Doha, after false accusations were brought against him, including espionage and planning to overthrow the regime.

Dr. Najeeb Mohammed Al-Nuaimi, justice minister from 1995 until 1997, has been subject to an arbitrary travel ban since 2017. Al-Nuaimi learned of his travel ban in January 2017 in a text message from the General Directorate of Passports and the Office of Public Prosecution with his national ID number. Al-Nuaimi obtained a court order in June 2017, finding that “the justification for the ban had ended” and ruling for “cancellation of the travel ban levelled against the appellant.” However, the authorities continue to bar Al-Nuaimi from leaving the country.

Continuing violations against migrant workers

A recent mission by GCHR to Qatar documented the grave violations of the civil and human rights of foreign workers.

According to the testimony of a number of migrant workers, these violations begin in their countries of origin when they are selected to travel and work in Qatar, and continue upon their arrival in Qatar.

GCHR issued important recommendations to the Government of Qatar and the International Football Association (Fédération Internationale de Football Association, FIFA) with the aim of protecting migrant workers from further discrimination or abuse and giving them the opportunity to build a healthy and rich life for themselves and their families.

To read the full details, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/3112

Recommendations

GCHR calls on the Qatari government to immediately rescind all these unfair sentences issued against human rights activists on false charges that violate their civil and human rights, including the right to express their opinions online and offline, as well as the right to peaceful assembly.

GCHR also calls on the authorities in Qatar to compensate Internet activist activist Issa Mardi Juhaim Al-Shammari for all the damages he sustained due to the confiscation of his personal documents for many years and his arbitrary imprisonment.

The authorities should unconditionally release his internet activists Abdullah Al-Mohannadi and Saud Al-Thani, and compensate them for all the damages they sustained as a result of their prolonged travel bans and arbitrary imprisonment simply for claiming their right to freedom of movement.

The authorities should unconditionally release Mohammed Abdulahman Al-Thani, cancel his travel ban and provide him with compensation; and release human rights activist Mohammad bin Yousef Al-Sulaiti and compensate him for all the damages caused to him due to his travel ban and arbitrary imprisonment.

The authorities must respect the basic rights of citizens and residents, especially since the Qatari government signed and ratified in 2018 the two international covenants on civil and political rights and social, cultural and economic rights. They must uphold the rights to exercise freedom of expression online and offline, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association and allow free movement inside and outside the country.