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‘Abusive and arbitrary’: OHCHR report confirms Qatar blockade in violation of human rights

As the ongoing blockade against Qatar enters its 7 month, the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) announced in a press conference this morning that it had received the report detailing the findings of the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Technical Mission to the State of Qatar.

The report, title ‘On the impact of the Gulf Crisis on human rights’, is the result of an investigation by the OHCHR team who visited Qatar from November 17-24, 2017 to document and assess the impact of the blockade on human rights infringements and violations among the population.

(Copy of the OHCHR report received by NHRC. Photo credit: I Love Qatar)

During their mission to Qatar OHCHR representatives met with and interviewed 20 government and non-governmental organizations, and 40 victims during the course of their assessment. The report also stated that the OHCHR team reached out to the member states of the blockade to make them aware of the functions of the Technical Mission to Qatar and requested that human rights cases affected as a result of the blockade be monitored closely – but received no response.

This is the first of its kind commissioned by a government organization, and while it’s comprehensive, the document it’s also dense. To help you understand it’s scope, here’s a breakdown of some of its key points and findings as outlined by NHRC President Dr. Ali bin Samih Al Marri at this morning’s press conference:

Key Findings

  • The actions and procedures of the blockading states against Qatar do not fall within the scope of diplomatic/economic standard sanctions. They are found to be unilateral, coercive, arbitrary measures that directly impact Qatari citizens.
  • Those Qatari citizens who have interests in blockading countries were compelled to rapidly exit those countries within 14 days. This forced exodus has adversely impacted Qatari families, migrant workers, and has led to an overall decrease in Qatar’s population due to this imposed restriction of movement.
  • The measures of the blockading countries are discriminatory and not legally-bound, amounting to ‘economic warfare’. The blockading countries have not differentiated between the Qatari government and the Qatari people – effectively disproving that the blockade doesn’t discriminate between the two.
  • The OHCHR confirmed that the government of Qatar has been successful at containing the repercussions of the crisis and alleviating its impact on citizens and residents. The report also noted that there have been no reprisal measures from the State of Qatar against the blockading nations.
  • Through hate speech and inciteful discourse that targets the state, the blockade has had a dangerous psychological impact on expats and nationals in Qatar. Those impacted have found no solutions, while the member states of the blockade have been regressive at facilitating a solution.

(NHRC President Dr. Ali bin Samih Al Marri speaks at this morning’s press conference. Photo credit: I Love Qatar)

  • The OHCHR has praised Qatar’s NHRC cooperation in documenting human rights violations cases and victim’s reports during the blockade.
  • The report further confirmed that, in direct contradiction to freedom of speech, the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, have declared through their news agencies that anyone who expresses compassion towards Qatar will face punitive measures.
  • News media and entertainment programs in the blockading nations are confirmed to have used their platforms to call for violence and inciteful speech towards Qatar in violation of economic, social, and cultural rights.
  • The OHCHR report called for freedom of religious practice during Hajj and Ramadan, elaborating that the United Nations asked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia not to politicize the Holy Pilgrimage by preventing Qatari citizens or residents making the pilgrimage from Qatar to enter the Kingdom, as these actions were inimical to freedom of movement.
  • As Qatari students were expelled from institutions in blockading nations, the report confirms that the crisis has had an indelible impact on the union of families and the social fabric of the GCC as a whole.

(Flag of the United Nations. Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

What comes next?

After the review and the release of the report, the NHRC says it will make the following recommendations to OHCHR:

  • To move further at all levels of international human rights mechanisms and the United Nations Human Rights Council.
  • To raise the issue of the impacts of the blockade in the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the next session of the United Nation Human Rights Council.
  • To address specialized international organizations such as the International Labor Organization, UNESCO, the WTO, and ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) to share information and promote the complaints against the countries of the blockade.
  • Call on the United Nations special rapporteurs to act promptly to address the issues of victims of the blockade and to visit the countries of the blockade, and to include the impacts of the blockade in their reports to the Human Rights Council.
  • Invite the OHCHR Technical Mission to visit the countries of the blockade to identify the impacts of the blockade on their citizens and citizens of the State of Qatar.
  • Include the impacts of the blockade in the General Report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

(United Nations General Assembly. Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

The NHRC has also made the following recommendations for action to the Government of the State of Qatar:

  • Not to accept any solution to the crisis or any negotiations before lifting the violations and injustice and redress for the victims.
  • The need to refer to the report of the Technical Mission in supporting complaints before the World Trade Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and UNESCO.
  • To move and raise the issue in international and regional forums to life the injustice suffered by the victims of the blockade.
  • To move at the level of the Human Rights Council to present a draft resolution on the impacts of the blockade on citizens and residents of the State of Qatar.
  • To move and raise the issue before the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Security Council.
  • Access to the International Court of Justice, arbitration committees, and national and international specialized courts.
  • To bring some of the perpetrators of the defamation and hatred campaign launched against Qatar from the countries of the blockade to justice, including the Advisor to the Royal Court in KSA, who was orchestrating the media campaign against Qatar for the crimes of hostility and incitement in violation of international law and domestic laws – noting that the NHRC monitors and reports all the defamation and hatred campaigns launched by that official, and the officials of the countries of the blockade to carry out legal movements.
  • Call on the National Compensation Claims Commission to expedite the proceedings of litigation and international arbitration and, depending on the report of the mission, to facilitate the role of the appointed International Law Office.

(Doha’s West Bay district. Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

Finally, the NHRC has called on the blockading states to implement the following recommendations:

  • To deal positively and immediately with the findings of the report of the OHCHR Technical Mission and the abolition of all unilateral arbitrary measures.
  • Respect for its obligations under international human rights law, and the immediate lifting of violations and redress of victims.
  • To allow the OHCHR Technical Mission to conduct their visits and to observe closely the effects of the measures taken on the citizens of these countries and the citizens and residents of Qatar.
  • Allow field visits of special rapporteurs and international human rights organizations.
  • Allow victims to resort to national justice and litigation procedures to recover their rights.
  • The immediate cessation of defamation, hatred campaigns, provocative calls, and accountability of the perpetrators.

What impact do you hope the OHCHR Technical Mission Report will have on the current situation in Qatar amid the GCC Crisis? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to like and share this article!

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