Qatar made an update to laws that previously provided immunity to ministers.
Just a day prior to the arrest of the country’s minister of finance over corruption charges, Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani updated laws to abolish previous immunity provisions for ministers, Doha News has learned.
The update scraps the Accountability of Ministers law which lifts protection provided to government officials in the face of civil or criminal prosecution, as is the case with all residents and citizens, according to The Gazette.
The move came ahead of comments by Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani who said the dismissal of Ali Shareef Al-Emadi from his post showcases the country’s commitment and respect to the rule of law.
“No one is above the law,” Sheikh Mohammed said in an interview with Al Jazeera.
“What happened with regard to the former Minister of Finance Ali Shareef Al-Emadi, has a direct relationship with the public office, and the job of the minister of finance,” he stated, suggesting the charges were not related to his position or role in any other institution.
MBA stressed that “the investigation with the minister is still ongoing, and we cannot comment on its content.”
The Qatari official also said Al-Emadi’s businesses will continue to run as usual and will not be affected by the investigation.
In an interview with Doha News, prominent Qatari journalist and Editor in Chief of The Peninsula Dr. Khalid Al-Shafi said the move, which were also mentioned in his speech during the last Shura Council session, clearly imply that Qatar’s laws apply on all state agencies to enforce transparency and accountability.
“These directives coincide with broad legal reforms that have made the State of Qatar at the forefront of countries that fight corruption and support good governance as well as the rule of law,” Al-Shafi said.
“These are the laws of the countries that apply justice and Qatar has made great strides in that regard,” he added.
The new laws do not abolish the rights of minister but rather declares that criminal laws apply to all citizens of the Qatari community equally.
“This confirms that our leadership places integrity and honesty as a top priority. These laws will be applied to everyone with complete equality to prevent financial and administrative violations as well as all that affects integrity, transparency and the rule of law,” Al-Shafi stated.
“The international community views Qatar as a model for transparency and integrity, as confirmed by many international institutions and organisations, and this motivates the state to achieve more successes and make further progress in establishing the rule of law,” he noted, noting the latest decision was met with praise nationwide.
Qatar’s amir replaced the arrested finance minister with Ali bin Ahmed Al-Kuwari, the current Minister of Trade and Industry, state news agency said on Thursday.
The move came after Qatar News Agency confirmed Qatar’s Public Prosecutor ordered the arrest of Al-Emadi over charges including abuse of public funds and power.
He was questioned by prosecutors as part of a probe into embezzlement of public funds and misuse of authority, QNA reported on Thursday, citing the office of the prosecutor general.
The finance minister was previously lauded for his quick reaction in the wake of the blockade.
Al-Emadi assumed his position as the finance minister a day after Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani became the leader of Qatar in June 2013.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said the probe is related to al-Emadi’s position as finance minister and “not his board member roles at other entities”, Reuters reported.
“There are no allegations related to his roles in any other entities. We are confident that our companies and entities are running the highest levels of corporate governance and we are conducting regular reviews and audits for the governance of our companies,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
Corruption watchdog Transparency International ranks Qatar among the least corrupt in the region in 2020, with a score of 63 out of 100.