Qaṭar: Qatar- Human rights defenders Mohammed Issa Al-Baker and Mansoor Rashed Al- Matroushi held in incommunicado without access to families or lawyers

26.03.13

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is seriously concerned for the safety and security of human rights defenders Mohammed Issa Al-Baker and Mansoor Rashed Al- Matroushi who have been held in incommunicado detention in Doha since 22 March 2013. Both are human rights activists who have been campaigning peacefully and legitimately for human rights in Qatar for over a decade.

On Friday 22 March 2013, Mohammed Issa Al-Baker and Mansoor Rashed Al-Matroushi were on their way back from a family trip to Mesaieed, 40 kilometres south of Doha when they were stopped by plain clothes security men at a checkpoint and arrested. They were then brought to the central police headquarters in Doha.

Reports from the Qatari police have confirmed that the men are being held at the police headquarters in solitary confinement and that visits from their families or lawyers are prohibited. No grounds have been provided for the arrests, which were made on foot of an order of the State Security apparatus.

The office of the General Prosecutor has stated that it holds no information relating to the arrests, despite the fact that Qatari law requires a person to be brought to the office of the General Prosecutor within 24 hours of their arrest.

The GCHR believes that Mohammed Issa Al-Baker and Mansoor Rashed Al-Matroushi are at serious risk of ill-treatment and expresses serious concern for their safety.

On 28 January 2013, 150 activists including Mohammed Issa Al-Baker and Mansoor Rashed Al-Matroushi submitted a letter to the Interior Ministry seeking permission to hold a peaceful demonstration in front of the French embassy to protest against French military intervention in Mali. When their request was refused, the activists then submitted a letter to the French embassy on 6 February 2013. According to information received by the GCHR the letter did not contain any information, which incited hatred or violence, nor did its content violate Qatari law.

From that date onwards however, Mohammed Issa Al-Baker and Mansoor Rashed Al-Matroushi reportedly received continuous calls from state officials from unspecified units. The callers asked them about their activism and in particular about the letters they had submitted. The human rights defenders were asked to report for questioning however, they refused to do so as no legal basis had been provided for such a request and no arrest warrant or formal summons had been issued.

The GCHR expresses grave concern for the security and safety of Mohammed Issa Al-Baker and Mansoor Rashed Al-Matroushi particularly in light of the fact that they are being held incommunciado and they have not been brought before the office of the General Prosecutor. The GCHR believes that their arrest and on-going incommunicado detention is directly related to their legitimate and peaceful human rights work and in particular the exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

The GCHR urges the authorities in Qatar to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release human rights defenders Mohammed Issa Al-Baker and Mansoor Rashed Al-Matroushi;
  2. Grant Mohammed Issa Al-Baker and Mansoor Rashed Al- Matroushi immediate and unfettered access to their family and lawyers;
  3. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Mohammed Issa Al-Baker and Mansoor Rashed Al- Matroushi;
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Qatar are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. 

The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c) “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” and to  Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration."