Qatar’s courts more crowded than ever

Court of Appeals

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Court of Appeals

Qatar’s judiciary heard nearly 100,000 cases last year, and is struggling under an ever-increasing docket amid a growing population.

The number of cases was up by about 7,000 (or 8 percent) from 2014, and 80,933 (about 80 percent) were resolved, according to the Supreme Judicial Council.

That’s on par with the clearing rate in each of the last four years, despite the increasing load.

Number of court cases heard in Qatar

By Shabina S. Khatri

Number of court cases heard in Qatar

Some of the most common types of lawsuits heard in the courts, including the lower criminal court and Court of Cassation, included check fraud, environmental issues and traffic cases, QNA reports.

In a statement, the President of the Judicial Supreme Council said that he “highly appreciated the efforts being exerted by the Magistrates and their assistants, calling on them to commit to achieve prompt and efficient resolutions.”

Overcrowding

For years, Qatar has faced pressure both at home and abroad to revamp its judicial system, which was formed a quarter century ago when the population was less than a million people.

Most mornings, the scene at the lower criminal court in Al Sadd is chaotic, with at least 50 people crowding into a courtroom to wait for their cases to be heard.

Lower criminal court in Doha

Shabina S. Khatri

Lower criminal court in Doha

Oftentimes, hearings end with a postponement, with the person again needing to appear before the court at a later date.

Even if a trial proceeds, testimony must be given slowly, as all official notes are handwritten by a clerk sitting near the judges.

Independence concerns

In addition to overcrowding, Qatar’s courts suffer from a lack of independence, making it difficult to protect the human rights of all residents, a UN official said last year.

Gabriela Knaul

Peter Kovessy

Gabriela Knaul

Following an official visit to Qatar, Gabriela Knaul, the UN’s special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, filed a report that called for more Qataris to become judges.

“Non-Qatari judges can be dismissed at any time, which renders them extremely vulnerable to pressures from any side, including from the public prosecution, lawyers and the executive,” she said.

However, she conceded that no specific cases of suspect dismissals have been reported.

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