Human rights in Qatar
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
The state of human rights in Qatar is a concern for several non-governmental organizations. Sharia law is the main source of Qatari legislation according to Qatar's Constitution. Flogging and stoning are legal in Qatar due to Sharia law.
According to Human Rights Watch in June 2012 hundreds of thousands of mostly South Asian migrant workers in construction in Qatar risk serious exploitation and abuse, sometimes amounting to forced labor.
- 1 Sharia Law
- 2 Labor
- 3 Women's rights
- 4 Individual rights
- 5 Office of human rights in the MOFA of Qatar
- 6 Historical situation
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Sharia law is the main source of Qatari legislation according to Qatar's Constitution. Sharia law is applied to laws pertaining to family law, inheritance, and several criminal acts (including adultery, robbery and murder). In some cases in Sharia-based family courts, a female's testimony is worth half a man's and in some cases a female witness is not accepted at all. Codified family law was introduced in 2006. In practice, Qatar's legal system is a mixture of civil law and Islamic law.
Flogging is used in Qatar as a punishment for alcohol consumption or illicit sexual relations. Article 88 of Qatar's criminal code declares the punishment for adultery is 100 lashes. Adultery is punishable by death when a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man are involved. In 2006, a Filipino woman was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery. In 2010, at least 18 people (mostly foreign nationals) were sentenced to flogging of between 40 and 100 lashes for offences related to “illicit sexual relations” or alcohol consumption. In 2011, at least 21 people (mostly foreign nationals) were sentenced to floggings of between 30 and 100 lashes for offences related to “illicit sexual relations” or alcohol consumption. In 2012, six expatriates were sentenced to floggings of either 40 or 100 lashes. Only Muslims considered medically fit were liable to have such sentences carried out. It is unknown if the sentences were implemented. More recently in April 2013, a Muslim expatriate was sentenced to 40 lashes for alcohol consumption. In June 2014, a Muslim expatriate was sentenced to 40 lashes for consuming alcohol and driving under the influence. Judicial corporal punishment is common in Qatar due to the Hanbali interpretation of Sharia Law.
Stoning is a legal punishment in Qatar. Apostasy is a crime punishable by the death penalty in Qatar. Blasphemy is punishable by up to seven years in prison and proselytizing can be punished by up to 10 years in prison. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by the death penalty for Muslims.
Alcohol consumption is partially legal in Qatar, some five-star luxury hotels are allowed to sell alcohol to their non-Muslim customers. Muslims are not allowed to consume alcohol in Qatar and Muslims caught consuming alcohol are liable to flogging or deportation. Non-Muslim expatriates can obtain a permit to purchase alcohol for personal consumption. The Qatar Distribution Company (a subsidiary of Qatar Airways) is permitted to import alcohol and pork; it operates the one and only liquor store in the country, which also sells pork to holders of liquor licences. Qatari officials have also indicated a willingness to allow alcohol in "fan zones" at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Until recently, restaurants on the Pearl-Qatar (a man-made island near Doha) were allowed to serve alcoholic drinks. In December 2011, however, restaurants on the Pearl were told to stop selling alcohol. No explanation was given for the ban. Speculation about the reason includes the government's desire to project a more pious image in advance of the country's first election of a royal advisory body and rumours of a financial dispute between the government and the resort's developers.
In 2014, Qatar launched a modesty campaign to remind tourists of the modest dress code. Female tourists are advised not to wear leggings, miniskirts, sleeveless dresses and short or tight clothing in public. Men are advised against wearing only shorts and singlets.
As of 2014, certain provisions of the Qatari Criminal Code allows punishments such as flogging and stoning to be imposed as criminal sanctions. The UN Committee Against Torture found that these practices constituted a breach of the obligations imposed by the UN Convention Against Torture. Qatar retains the death penalty, mainly for threats against national security.
According to the US State Department, expatriate workers from nations throughout Asia and parts of Africa are routinely subjected to forced labor and, in some instances, prostitution. Most of these people voluntarily migrate to Qatar as low-skilled laborers or domestic servants, but are subsequently subjected to conditions indicative of involuntary servitude. Some of the more common labor rights violations include beatings, withholding of payment, charging workers for benefits which are nominally the responsibility of the amir, severe restrictions on freedom of movement (such as the confiscation of passports, travel documents, or exit permits), arbitrary detention, threats of legal action, and sexual assault. Many migrant workers arriving for work in Qatar have paid exorbitant fees to recruiters in their home countries – a practice that makes workers highly vulnerable to forced labor once in Qatar.
Like other Persian Gulf nations, Qatar has sponsorship laws, which have been widely criticized as "modern-day slavery." Under the provisions of Qatar's sponsorship law, sponsors have the unilateral power to cancel workers' residency permits, deny workers' ability to change employers, report a worker as "absconded" to police authorities, and deny permission to leave the country. As a result, sponsors may restrict workers' movements and workers may be afraid to report abuses or claim their rights, which contribute to their forced labor situation.
Domestic servants are particularly vulnerable to trafficking since they are isolated inside homes and are not covered under the provisions of the labor law. Qatar is also a destination for women who migrate for legitimate purposes and subsequently become involved in prostitution, but the extent to which these women are subjected to forced prostitution is unknown. Some of these victims may be runaway domestic workers who have fallen prey to forced prostitution by individuals who exploit their illegal status.
The Government states that it is doing a good job with regards to human rights and treatment of laborers. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was established in 2002 to safeguard and consolidate human rights for everyone subject to the jurisdiction under the state. In a bid to combat Human trafficking, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned established the Qatar Foundation on Combating Human Trafficking (QFCHT). To promote more awareness in this area, the Ritz-Carlton Doha, created the World's largest Cake for the QFCHT Sculpture.
Qatari contracting agency Barwa is building a residential area for laborers known as Barwa Al Baraha (also called Workers City). The project was launched after a recent scandal in Dubai's Labor camps, and aims to provide a reasonable standard of living as defined by the new Human Rights Legislation. The overall cost of the project is estimated at around $1.1 billion and will be an integrated city in the Industrial area of Doha. Along with 4.25 square metres of living space per person, the residential project will provide recreational areas and services for laborers. Phase one of the project is set to be completed at the end of 2008 while all phases will be complete by mid 2010.
FIFA World Cup preparations and reported abuses
The construction boom in advance of Qatar hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup has reportedly led to an increase in human rights abuses. In 2013 Amnesty International published reports showing that unpaid migrant workers were left to go hungry. According to the report, workers are being "treated like cattle" According to a report by the Guardian (and based on documents obtained at the Nepalese embassy in Qatar) dozens of Nepalese migrant laborers had died in Qatar in just a few weeks around in September 2013, and thousands more were enduring appalling labor abuses. According to their analysis, current construction practices will have resulted in over 4,000 deaths by the time of the 2022 event. As of December 2013, FIFA has investigated but taken no action to force Qatar to improve worker conditions.
Immigrant labor and human trafficking
Qatar is a destination for men and women from South Asia and Southeast Asia who migrate willingly, but are subsequently trafficked into involuntary servitude as domestic workers and laborers, and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation. The most common offense was forcing workers to accept worse contract terms than those under which they were recruited. Other offenses include bonded labor, withholding of pay, restrictions on movement, arbitrary detention, and physical, mental, and sexual abuse.
According to the "Trafficking in Persons" report by the U.S. State Department, men and women who are lured into Qatar by promises of high wages are often forced into underpaid labor. The report states that Qatari laws against forced labor are rarely enforced, and that labor laws often result in the detention of victims in deportation centers, pending the completion of legal proceedings. The report places Qatar at tier 3, as one of the countries that neither satisfies the minimum standards, nor demonstrates significant efforts to come into compliance.
In common with other Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, sponsorship laws exist in Qatar. These laws have been widely described as akin to modern-day slavery. The sponsorship system (kafeel or kafala) exists throughout the GCC, apart from Bahrain, and means that a worker (not a tourist) may not enter the country without having a kafeel; cannot leave without the kafeel`s permission (an exit permit must first be awarded by the sponsor, or kafeel); and the sponsor has the right to ban the employee from entering Qatar within 2–5 years of his first departure. Various governmental sponsors have recently exercised their right to prevent employees from leaving the country, effectively holding them against their will for no good reason. Some individuals after resigning have not been issued with their exit permits, denying them their basic right to leave the country. Many sponsors do not allow the transfer of one employee to another sponsor. This does not apply to special sponsorship of a Qatar Financial Center-sponsored worker, where it is encouraged and regulated that sponsorship should be uninhibited and assistance should be given to allow for such transfers of sponsorship.
Barwa, a Qatari contracting agency, is constructing a residential area for laborers known as Barwa Al Baraha (also called "Worker's City"). The project was launched after a recent scandal in Dubai's labor camps. The project aims to provide a reasonable standard of living as defined by the new Human Rights Legislation. The Barwa Al Baraha will cost around $1.1 billion and will be a completely integrated city in the industrial area in Doha. Along with 4.25 square meters of living space per person, the residential project will provide parks, recreational areas, malls, and shops for laborers. Phase one of the project was set to be completed by the end of 2008, and the project itself is set to be completed by the middle of 2010.[dated info]
Women in Qatar vote and may run for public office. Qatar enfranchised women at the same time as men in connection with the May 1999 elections for a Central Municipal Council. It was the first country in the Persian Gulf to allow women the right to vote. These elections—the first ever in Qatar—were deliberately held on 8 March 1999, International Women's Day.
Qatar retains the death penalty, primarily for espionage, or other threats against national security. Apostasy is also considered a capital offense, but there have been no recorded applications of the death penalty for this charge.
Flogging is used in Qatar as a punishment for alcohol consumption or illicit sexual relations. According to Amnesty International, in 2012 at least six foreign nationals were sentenced to floggings of either 40 or 100 lashes.
Residency and naturalization
Qatar is one of known countries of huge discrimination between expatriates and citizens, Qatar does not maintain wage standards for its immigrant labor, and does not permit labor-unions. Under the provisions of Qatar's sponsorship law, sponsors have the unilateral power to cancel workers' residency permits, deny workers' ability to change employers, report a worker as "absconded" to police authorities, and deny permission to leave the country. As a result, sponsors may restrict workers' movements and workers may be afraid to report abuses or claim their rights.
Qatar's government is keen to protect the status quo and doesn't want to compromise its cultural values or standard of living by allowing foreigners to become a permanent part of society. The only route to becoming a naturalized citizen is by marriage to a national; even this, however, doesn't guarantee citizenship, particularly for non-Muslims.
In exceptional circumstances only, Qatar's ruler might grant citizenship to a foreigner who has provided outstanding service to the state over a number of years. A generous employer might reward a loyal worker who has made a major contribution to the company over many years by providing him with a work and residence permit renewable each year, until the employee reaches the age of 60. After one's retirement, however, the employer would have to be a figure of considerable influence to maintain this gift and satisfy the labor authorities. In this case, one wouldn't be a citizen, but merely be allowed to remain in the country indefinitely based on yearly renewable permits, in most of cases the retired person who reaches 60 years old has to leave the country and end his contract but he can return upon granting of a special visa.
Also Qatari authorities oblige the employers for not issuing a contract for more than 20 consecutive years, there is no chance for workers and employees to get the visa renewed if the contract has passed 20 years with same employer. This is because the Qatari government does not want to commit itself to paying pensions or retirement end of service for people who lived for 20 years, and at the same time avoids the possibility that the person may ask for nationality or citizenship.
Children of foreigners born in Qatar don't have rights of local citizenship and automatically assume the nationality of the parents. Only if the father is a national of Qatar, the child will usually be granted local nationality and may later become a national of Qatar and obtain a local passport. If the father is foreigner and mother is a Qatari citizen the child is not granted any citizenship rights.
In many cases, the child isn't affected, but any children that he has might not enjoy the same rights of nationality, citizenship, abode, etc. as his parents and grandparents.
Qatari women have made significant legal advancements since the 1990s.
As a result of these advancements, Qatari women have many career opportunities, including leadership positions, in education, banking, charitable projects, health and human services, tourism, law, civil service and even diplomacy. According to the embassy of Qatar women play various roles in the field of Education, Health, Legal, Journalism, Aviation, Banking, Politics, Finance, and Tourism.
LGBT rights in Qatar
Sodomy between consenting male adults in Qatar is illegal, and subject to a sentence of up to five years in prison. The law is silent about sodomy between consenting female adults. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not covered in any civil rights laws and there is no recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships.
Freedom of expression
Freedom of expression is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas. A life sentence was handed to critics of government during the 2012 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Qatar to a Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, also known as Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb. Observers were not allowed to enter the court, and al-Ajami himself was not present at the sentencing. All the information available points to Mohammed al-Ajami being a prisoner of conscience who has been placed behind bars solely for his words.
A new cyber law, which passed in late September 2014, severely limited the freedom of speech, and freedom of expression rights, granting the government and authorities the right for criminal punishment with jail time of up to 3 years, and fines around 500,000 QR for "content that may harm the country". The new law also states that the authority may in each individual case judge whether the content is suited or not. No guidelines or references are currently available to say what type of content is allowed.
Freedom of religion
Qatar is a Muslim-majority nation, with 76% of its population adhering to Islam. The government uses Sunni law as the basis of its criminal and civil regulations. However, some measure of religious toleration is granted. Foreign workers, and tourists, are free to affiliate with other faiths, i.e. Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Bahá'ís, as long as they are discreet and do not offend public order or morality.
For example, in March 2008 the Roman Catholic church "Our Lady of the Rosary" was consecrated in Doha. However, in keeping with the need to be discreet, no missionaries are allowed and the church will not have any bells, crosses or other overtly Christian signs on its exterior.
Office of human rights in the MOFA of Qatar
Article 21 of the law 39/2005 regarding ministry of foreign affairs stipulate the formation of "Office for human rights". One of its main missions is to prepare answers on the claims or reports of foreign countries and organizations on the situation of human rights inside the state.
- "The Permanent Constitution of the State of Qatar". Government of Qatar.
- "Constitution of Qatar".
According to Article 1: Qatar is an independent Arab country. Islam is its religion and Sharia law is the main source of its legislation.
- Qatar: Migrant Construction Workers Face Abuse Human Rights Watch June 12, 2012
- "Qatar Gender Equality Profile" (PDF). UNICEF.
- "The World Factbook". U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
- "Qatar" (PDF). US Department of State.
- "Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Qatar". Amnesty International. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
- "Filipino woman gets 100 lashes for giving birth in Qatar".
- "Qatar". Amnesty International.
- "Qatar". Amnesty International.
- "Annual Report". Amnesty International. 2014-10-23.
- "Qatar sentences man to 40 lashes for drinking alcohol". Arabian Business.
- "Qatar sentences man to lashes for drinking alcohol". Al Akhbar.
- "Qatar court orders lashing of Muslim barber over drinking alcohol". Al Arabiya.
- "Indian expat sentenced to 40 lashes in Qatar for drink-driving". Arabian Business.
- "Special report: The punishment was death by stoning. The crime? Having a mobile phone".
- Jenifer Fenton. "Religious law, prison for “blasphemy”, severe sexual inequalilty: Qatar’s human rights review".
- "What are the worst countries in the world to be gay?".
- Alex Delmar-Morgan (7 January 2012). "Qatar, Unveiling Tensions, Suspends Sale of Alcohol". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
- Jenifer Fenton (16 January 2012). "Qatar's Impromptu Alcohol Ban". The Arabist. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
- "Purchasing Alcohol in Qatar". Qatar Visitor. 2 June 2007. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
- Walid, Tamara (11 November 2009). "Qatar would 'welcome' Israel in 2022". The National. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
- James M. Dorsey (17 January 2012). "Debate Questions Emir's Powers To Shape Qatar's Positioning As Sports Hub And Sponsor of Revolts – Analysis". The Eurasia Review. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
- Elgot, Jessica (28 May 2014). "'Leggings Are Not Pants' Qatar's New Modesty Campaign Aimed At Westerners'". Huffington Post.
- Aningtias Jatmika (29 May 2014). "Qatar Bans Tourists from Wearing Leggings in Public".
- Kelly, Tobias (2009). "The UN Committee against Torture: Human Rights Monitoring and the Legal Recognition of Cruelty". Human Rights Quarterly 313 (3): 777–800. doi:10.1353/hrq.0.0094.
- Conclusions and Recommendations: Qatar (Report). UN Committee Against Torture. 25 July 2006. U.N. Doc. CAT/C/QAT/CO/1. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
"Certain provisions of the Criminal Code allow punishments such as flogging and stoning to be imposed as criminal sanctions by judicial and administrative authorities. These practices constitute a breach of the obligations imposed by the Convention. The Committee notes with interest that authorities are presently considering amendments to the Prison Act that would abolish flogging." (Par. 12)
- "Country Narratives". Human Trafficking Report 2011. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, United States Department of State. June 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-21.
- "Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 — Qatar (Tier 3)". Refworld. 4 June 2008. Retrieved 6 December 2008.
- "Qatar: National Human Rights Committee report". Qatar National Human Rights Committee. 2006-05-03. Retrieved 2008-03-25.. According to the source at zawya.com, the web link "...is the unofficial translation by The Peninsula team of the 57-page Arabic text of the report released by the National Human Rights Committee yesterday."
- "Qatar: National Human Rights Committee Support Expats". The Peninsula via iLoveQatar.net. 2008-06-18. Retrieved 2008-08-04.
- Bowman, D (2008-03-02). "Qatar to build $1.1bn laborer city". ArabianBusiness.com (Dubai: ITP Digital Publishing). Retrieved 2008-03-25.
- "Qatar 2022 World Cup workers 'treated like cattle', Amnesty report finds". 17 November 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
- "Revealed: Qatar's World Cup 'slaves', Exclusive: Abuse and exploitation of migrant workers preparing emirate for 2022". 25 September 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
- "Middle East :: Qatar". CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 8 February 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
- "Country Narratives – Countries Q through Z". Trafficking in Persons Report. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, United States Department of State. 12 June 2007. Retrieved 25 March 2008.
- Labott, Elise; Verjee, Zane (12 June 2007). "India escapes U.S. list of worst human traffickers". Washington: Cable News Network. Retrieved 25 March 2008.
- "Qatar: National Human Rights Committee report". Qatar National Human Rights Committee. 3 May 2006. Retrieved 25 March 2008.. According to zawya.com, the web link "is the unofficial translation by The Peninsula team of the 57-page Arabic text of the report released by the National Human Rights Committee yesterday."
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (4 June 2008). "Refworld | Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 – Qatar". UNHCR. Retrieved 28 March 2010.
- "Qatar: National Human Rights Committee Support Expats". The Peninsula via iLoveQatar.net. 18 June 2008. Retrieved 4 August 2008.
- Bowman, D (2 March 2008). "Qatar to build $1.1bn laborer city". ArabianBusiness.com (Dubai: ITP Digital Publishing). Retrieved 25 March 2008.
- Lambert, Jennifer (2011). "Political Reform in Qatar: Participation, Legitimacy and Security" 19 (1). Middle East Policy Council.
- Miles, Hugh (2005). Al-Jazeera.
- Beydoun, Nasser (2012). The Glass Palace: Illusions of Freedom and Democracy in Qatar. p. 35. ISBN 978-0875869551.
- "Saudi Arabia to let women compete in Olympics for first time". CNN. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
- Qatar: Death Penalty, Firas Nassuh Salim Al-Majali | Amnesty International
- Journalism.co.uk :: Crusading journalist wins case against Al-Jazeera
- "Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Qatar". Amnesty International. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
- Qatar on Wikipedia.org 23 December 2012
- Qatar: Is it possible to become a national of Qatar? 23 December 2012
- Ready, Freda. The Cornell Daily Sun article  Retrieved on December 4, 2002
- Qatar: Outrageous life sentence for 'Jasmine poet' Amnesty International 29 November 2012
- Qatar: Outrageous life sentence for 'Jasmine poet' 29 November 2012
-  Doha News
- 2004 Census – CIA World Factbook – Qatar.
- Role of the Office of the human rights in the MOFA of Qatar according to the Qatari law.
- Freedom House (2012). "Country ratings and status, FIW 1973-2012" (XLS). Retrieved 2012-08-22.
- Freedom House (2013). "Freedom in the World 2013: Democratic Breakthroughs in the Balance" (PDF).
- Freedom House (2014). "Freedom in the World 2014" (PDF).
- Freedom House (2015). "Freedom in the World 2015" (PDF).
- Qatar's foreign domestic workers subjected to slave-like conditions
- Broken promises: Qatar's migrant workers caught in the kafala system