The Qatari Delegation has concluded a meeting in Geneva with the United Nations’ Committee on Human Rights.
Qatar’s legislative revision changes have been applauded by the United Nations Human Rights Committee. During the meeting Qatar’s efforts in implementing the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) were examined.
The committee reviewed the initial report for the country, submitted under Article 40 of the ICCPR.
The Qatari delegation was chaired by the by Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Hassan Al Hammadi, who was accompanied by representatives of the government institutions in the State.
Qatar’s accession to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was approved and convened in 2018. Since then, large-scale developments were introduced to the gulf country on different levels. This includes legislative, institutional, policy and strategy measures.
Al Hammadi stated that the efforts of Qatar in improving the working conditions of migrants are still ongoing, and a National Human Rights Action Plan will be launched soon.
Among a wide-range of topics, the Qatari delegation was mainly asked by the experts about the country’s stance on capital punishment and potential changes to it.
In Qatar, capital punishment only applies to a small number of serious crimes. The sentence can only be given when the judges involved are unanimous.
In the country, pregnant women and mothers of children under two years of age cannot be given the death penalty. Additionally the Amir has the ability to repeal such sentences.
The death penalty is not enforced on children below the age 16.
During the dialogue, Qatar stated that the number of imposed death penalties was reduced in the past decade, and was issued during 5 occasions in very serious cases only.
Photini Pazartzis, Chair of the Committee, asked the Qatari delegation to consider a moratorium on the death penalty and to sign the Optional Protocol of the Covenant.
Migrant rights protection
During the review, the Qatari delegation was asked about how the working conditions of migrant workers were monitored to prevent the violation of their rights.
Additionally, the experts from the Human Rights Committee noted that the yearly outdoor work ban put in place by the state, that prohibits work under the sun from 11:30 am to 3pm between 15 June and 31 August, was failing to fully protect workers from heat-related illnesses.
Migrant workers make up around 75 percent of Qatar’s population. In response to the query, the delegation assured them that all migrant workers in the country are protected by law. After reformations, workers no longer need the agreement of their current employer to leave their job or the country.
246,000 workers were able to change their jobs through a digital programme between 2010 to 2020.
At the beginning of each month, employers are obligated to pay the salaries of their employees. Companies that fail to comply with that can be penalised.
Additionally, the delegation stated the the confiscation of employee passports is banned, and any violators of that ban will face a penalty.
The families of deceased workers have the ability to file lawsuits against employers. In 2020, there had been 66 cases of workers’ deaths out of 2,400,000 workers, which according to the Qatari delegation was a low figure.
In 2021, several employers were sanctioned for violations of workers’ rights. This included the falsification of visas, 5 reports of rape of employees, and 6 cases of ill-treatment of domestic workers.
Finally, to further protect workers in the summer heat, the government implemented a new law. Outdoor work in temperatures that exceed 32C is banned. Some workplaces were shut down for not complying with the law.
Under the Nationality Act No. 38 of 2005, Qatari citizenship is granted to children born to Qatari parents, naturalised Qataris, and those born in Qatar to unknown parents.
Any abandoned infant is deemed to have been born in Qatar unless proven otherwise. On the contrary, any child born to a Qatari mother and a non-Qatari father cannot obtain the Qatari citizenship. They can only get it if the father is unknown or if the child meets the conditions for naturalisation set out in article 2 of the Nationality Act.
The committee asked Qatar whether they had any plans to change this. According to the Qatari delegation, women married to foreigners and their children receive the same rights and privileges as Qatari citizens. Additionally, they qualify for obtaining permanent residency.
On women’s rights
The Human Rights Committee inquired on whether Qatar has any plans to criminalise all forms of gender-based violence against women, including domestic violence and marital rape.
In response, the Qatari delegation stated that for the purpose of the promotion and protection of women’s rights, the state is providing free legal assistance, psychological rehabilitation, shelter for female victims of violence, social assistance and salaries for divorced women and widows.
The National Committee on Women, Children, the Elderly, and Persons with Disabilities was also established.
Additionally, women in Qatar are entitled to paid leave if they have a child with a disability. The duration of a maternity leave could also go up to two years. The delegation also highlighted the representation of women in high places, and that among the region, Qatar has achieved highest level of women’s participation in the workforce.
Qatar had agreed to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.
Right to vote
During the dialogue, concerns were raised by the experts regarding the equality in voting rights in the country.
In the last Shura Council elections, naturalised citizens were excluded, along with their children and grandchildren. Leaving original Qataris as the only people eligible to vote.
The delegation admitted that there were improvements to be made regarding the right to vote in the elections. However, they ensured that they are committed toward ensuring that the areas of weakness were remedied, and the rights of all citizens were protected.
Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee
During the review, the experts congratulated Qatar on accreditation of its National Human Rights Committee (NHRC), which was given an “A” status by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions in 2010, and was re-accredited in October 2021.
When asked about the independence of the NHRC by the experts, the Qatari delegation reiterated that the committee is independent in accordance with the Paris Principles.
The NHRC was established in 2002, and re-organised in 2010, which consolidated the committee as an independent and official headquartered in Doha with a separate legal personality and an independent budget.
During the review, other subjects were touched upon such as Qatar’s COVID-19 response, the overcrowding of prisons, and how judges in the country are selected.
The delegation assured the Committee that the State of Qatar will take into account its concluding observations and recommendations of the review process. Al Hammadi stated that the country is working towards implementing human rights reforms, and set a positive example globally.
Pazartzis acknowledged the significance of Qatar’s report, and thanked the delegation for its direct responses to questions imposed by the committee. She also called on the state party to consider a moratorium on the death penalty, and to sign the Second Optional Protocol of the Covenant.