Qaṭar: Human rights violations continue as FIFA World Cup draws to a close

09.12.22

As the FIFA World Cup 2022 draws to a close, with the final match taking place on 18 December 2022, the Qatari authorities continue their gross and blatant violations of the rights of Qatari citizens and expatriates. On International Human Rights Defenders Day, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls on the authorities to stop sentencing human rights defenders and lawyers to life in prison – or even death - for their peaceful activities, and to end travel bans and other harassment.

Prosecutor calls for death penalty against human rights defender 

On 27 October 2022, the Qatari Public Prosecutor, following direct orders issued to him by the State Security Apparatus, appealed the initial life sentence issued in absentia against human rights defender Abdullah Al-Maliki, insisting that it be replaced by the death penalty by firing squad or hanging to death.

On 26 May 2022, the Criminal Court sentenced Al-Maliki to life imprisonment after holding only two hearings, without informing him, in a trial that lacked the minimum international standards for fair trial and legal procedures.

In this show trial, Al-Maliki faced charges of allegedly "publicly challenging the emir's exercise of his powers and dishonouring himself," "inciting the overthrow of the ruling regime," and "attempting to overthrow the regime."

In addition to judicial harassment, Al-Maliki was subjected to many other forms of direct targeting. On 13 July 2022, Al-Maliki was at a peaceful gathering organised by a number of human rights activists in the popular Marienplatz Square in Munich, Germany, when it was repeatedly attacked by groups of more than 15 Qatari citizens who were mobilised by the State Security Apparatus and sent to Germany to carry out a specific mission of sabotaging this peaceful protest calling for freedom, justice, equality, democracy and the release of detainees in Qatar.

The Qatari embassy in Berlin and the Qatari consulate in Munich have rejected, contrary to applicable local laws, all requests to renew Al-Maliki’s passport and identity card, which he has submitted many times since January 2021.

Other forms of harassment confirmed by reliable local reports are that the Qatari government sought to confiscate his property, money, and the property and money of his children in Qatar. The Presidency of the Council of Ministers, the Government Office, and the Qatar News Agency filed several civil cases against him, including the allegation that he had been out of work since April 2019, after they first claimed that he had been out work since August 2021. The Ministry of Interior also rejected a request submitted by one of his colleagues inside Qatar to renew his identity card, which caused many problems for him and his children.

All malicious criminal and civil cases that were brought against him inside Qatar took place in 2022, despite the fact that he left the country on 28 September 2016, which confirms their loss of credibility and that they are a targeting his human rights work.

It is worth noting that the Qatari government refused to provide guarantees for Al-Maliki’s safety on 05 June 2020 when he intended to return to Qatar to take his mother to receive treatment in Europe at his own expense. After he was prevented from taking her for treatment, her health worsened, and she died on 26 June 2020.

In a statement to GCHR, Al-Maliki said, "What the authorities in Qatar, led by the State Security Apparatus, are doing is clearly targeting me because of my peaceful and legitimate activities in the field of human rights." He added, "All these hostile acts, continuous targeting, and politicized rulings issued by the Qatari judiciary, which has lost its independence, will only increase my determination to carry out my duty to defend human rights with unparalleled enthusiasm."

Two human rights lawyers sentenced to life on appeal

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

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       

Arbitrary travel bans imposed against citizens

The State Security Apparatus continues to arbitrarily prevent a number of innocent citizens from traveling without any judicial procedures, and outside the scope of the law. Among those being prevented from traveling is a prominent human rights lawyer, Dr. Najeeb Mohammed Al-Nuaimi, who served as Minister of Justice from 1995 to 1997. He has been banned from traveling since January 2017. Al-Nuaimi obtained a court order in June 2017, which found 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.

The list of those banned from travel also includes the Internet activist Mohammed Yousef Al-Sulaiti, who has been banned from traveling since 2018, and detained by the Qatari official authorities in 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. For more information, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/2968 and https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/2944.

Members of the “National Campaign for Travel-Banned Citizens” released

Reports confirmed that the authorities had released all members of the “National Campaign for Travel-Banned Citizens”, including Internet activist Issa Mardi Juhaim Al-Shammari, who served as the media coordinator for this campaign. Al-Shammari obtained his identity card after his release, but he has not yet obtained his passport. All members of this campaign are still banned from traveling and from communicating with various media outlets. For more information, see: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/3124

Ongoing violations against migrant workers

More than three months have passed since GCHR released a report following a mission to Qatar, which documented the gross violations of the civil and human rights of foreign workers, beginning from their departure from their countries of origin when they were chosen to travel and work in Qatar, and continuing upon their arrival and during their work. The Qatari government continues its historical silence when it comes to protecting their civil and human rights. The government refuses to fully respect the rights of workers and compensate them, especially the workers who were killed during the construction of the 2022 FIFA World Cup stadiums in Qatar.

Recommendations

GCHR calls on the government of Qatar to immediately and unconditionally stop targeting prominent human rights defender Abdullah Al-Maliki, cancel his life sentence, and stop calling for his execution. GCHR believes that he is being targeted because of his peaceful and legitimate human rights activities. The authorities in Qatar should renew all his official Qatari documents, including his passport and identity card, and refrain from targeting his family members inside Qatar.

GCHR further appeals to the governments of Western countries in which Al-Maliki is practicing his peaceful human rights activities to grant him the full protection that he desperately needs.

GCHR also appeals to the Qatari government to release human rights lawyer Hazzaa bin Ali Abu Shraydeh Al-Marri and his brother, lawyer Rashid bin Ali Abu Shdraydeh Al-Marri. The peaceful demand for political participation should not be the reason for these shocking rulings.

GCHR calls on the competent authorities to work to lift the travel ban on all citizens, including prominent human rights lawyer Dr. Najeeb Al-Nuaimi and Internet activist Mohammed bin Yousef Al-Sulaiti, who must be released immediately and without conditions.

The government in Qatar 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, including freedom of expression on and off the Internet, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association and the right to form trade unions independent of the government, and freedom of movement inside and outside the country.