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TITLE:  QATAR HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                             
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                            QATAR


Qatar, an Arab state on the Persian Gulf, is a monarchy without 
democratically elected institutions or political parties.  It 
is ruled by an Amir from the Al Thani family.  The 1970 Basic 
Law institutionalizes the customs and mores of the country's 
conservative Islamic heritage.  These include respect for the 
sanctity of private property, freedom from arbitrary arrest and 
imprisonment, and punishment of transgressions against Islamic 
law.  The Amir holds absolute power, the exercise of which is 
influenced by continuing traditions of consultation, rule by 
consensus, and the citizen's right to appeal personally to the 
Amir.  In practice, the Amir must consider the opinions of 
leading citizens, whose influence is institutionalized in the 
Advisory Council, an appointed body that assists the Amir in 
formulating policy.

The Government operates an efficient security apparatus.  The 
civilian security apparatus, controlled by the Interior 
Ministry, has two sections, the police and the General 
Administration of Public Security.  A second branch of the 
Interior Ministry, the Investigatory Police (Mubahathat), deals 
with sedition and espionage.  The Mubahathat is nearly 
independent of the regular civil security forces and has been 
known to use severe force in its investigations.  It can 
incarcerate suspects without charge but reportedly does this 
infrequently.  The armed forces have under their jurisdiction 
another enforcement organization, known as the Intelligence 
Service (Mukhabarat), whose function is to intercept and arrest 
terrorists and to monitor political dissidents.

Qatar's economy is mixed.  The State owns and operates most 
basic industries and services, while retail trade and the 
construction industry remain in private hands.  Oil is the 
principal product, accounting for about 70 percent of the gross 
national product.  However the country's extensive natural gas 
resources are expected to play an increasingly important role 
in the economy.  The rapid development of Qatar's 
infrastructure in the 1970's and early 1980's led to the 
creation of a ratio of expatriates (mostly south Asian and 
Arab) to nationals of four to one.  The Government has 
continued efforts, begun during the economic downturn of the 
1980's, to reduce this ratio by offering many positions in the 
Government to Qatari citizens only.

Human rights remain closely restricted.  The main human rights 
problems include the denial of the right of citizens to change 
their government, arbitrary detentions in security cases, and 
restrictions on worker rights and the freedoms of speech, 
press, assembly, and association.  Constraints on women's 
rights continued, as did the systematic discrimination faced by 
non-Qatari workers.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Extrajudicial Killings

There were no reports of political or extrajudicial killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

There were no reports of torture.  Instances of torture have 
been reported in the past, usually by the security forces 
during the investigative phase following detention.  Improved 
standards of conduct were introduced in 1989.  The Government 
administers most corporal punishment prescribed by Shari'a law 
but does not allow amputation.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The authorities generally charge suspects within 48 hours.  In 
most cases involving foreigners, the police promptly notify the 
appropriate consular representative.  Suspects detained in 
security cases, however, are generally not afforded access to 
counsel and may be detained indefinitely while under 
investigation.

Involuntary exile is rare.  There were no reported cases in 
1993.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

There are two types of courts:  the civil courts, which have 
jurisdiction in civil and commercial matters, and the Shari'a 
Court, which has jurisdiction in family and criminal cases.  
There are no permanent security courts; security cases, which 
are extremely rare, are tried by ad hoc military courts. 
Defendants tried by all types of courts may submit their cases 
to an appeals court.  However, in cases tried by the Shari'a 
Court, it is possible that the same judges will hear both the 
original case and the appeal.

The judiciary is nominally independent, but most judges are 
foreign nationals who hold residence permits granted by the 
civil authorities and thus hold their positions at the 
Government's pleasure.  Qatar's legal system is biased in favor 
of Qataris and the Government.  

The Shari'a Court may assume jurisdiction in commercial or 
civil cases if requested to do so by a Muslim litigant.  
Non-Muslims are not allowed to bring suits as plaintiffs in the 
Shari'a Court.  This practice prevents non-Muslim residents 
from obtaining full legal recourse when being sued by, or 
trying to sue, a Qatari national.

In the Shari'a Court, only the disputing parties, their 
relatives, associates, and witnesses are allowed in the 
courtroom.  Lawyers do not play a formal role except to prepare 
litigants for their cases.  Although non-Arabic speakers are 
provided with translators, foreigners are disadvantaged, 
especially in cases involving the performance of contracts.

Shari'a trials are normally brief.  After both parties have 
stated their cases and examined witnesses, judges are likely to 
deliver a verdict after only a short deliberation.  Criminal 
cases are normally tried 2 to 3 months after suspects are 
detained.  There is no provision for release on bail in 
criminal cases.  However, foreigners charged with minor crimes 
may be released to a Qatari sponsor.  They are required to 
deposit their passport with the police and are prohibited from 
leaving Qatar until the case is resolved.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence.

Traditional attitudes of respect for the sanctity of the home 
provide a great deal of protection against arbitrary intrusions 
for most citizens and residents of Qatar.  A warrant must 
normally be obtained before police may search a residence or 
business, except in cases involving national security or 
emergencies.  However, warrants are issued by police officials 
themselves, rather than by judicial authorities.  There were no 
reports of unauthorized searches of homes in 1993.  The police 
and security forces are believed to monitor the communications 
of suspected criminals, those considered to be security risks, 
and selected foreigners.

With prior permission, which is usually granted, Qataris may 
marry foreigners of any nationality and apply for residence 
permits for their spouses.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Foreigners and Qataris can and do express political opinions in 
private.  However, public criticism of the ruling family or of 
Islam is not tolerated.  The Government also discourages public 
criticism of other Arab governments.  This policy also applies 
to the government-owned electronic media and the privately 
owned press.  

Since December 1989, the Government has permitted a modest 
degree of freedom of the press, although still within limits.  
Arrayah, the country's official newspaper, was suspended for
3 days during the summer.  This decision followed an official 
protest by the Embassy of Kuwait regarding the paper's overt 
support for the acquisition of Iraqi players by a local soccer 
team.  Non-Qatari journalists generally avoid challenging press 
restrictions because of the risk of having residence permits 
canceled.  Cable television service was introduced in 1993, 
although it is subject to government censorship.  The Customs 
Division of the Ministry of Finance and Petroleum routinely 
screens incoming video cassettes, audio tapes, books, and 
periodicals for politically objectionable or pornographic 
content.  Locally published books and other materials and all 
dramatic productions must be cleared by a board of censors 
before release. 

There are no legal provisions for academic freedom.  Most 
instructors at the University of Qatar are believed to exercise 
self-censorship.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

These rights are severely limited.  The Government does not 
allow political parties or political demonstrations or 
membership in international professional organizations critical 
of the Government or any other Arab government.  The Government 
allows private social, sports, trade, professional, and 
cultural societies to operate, but they must register with the 
Government, and their activities are closely watched.  
Membership in international professional organizations critical 
of the Government, or any other Arab government, is not 
permitted.  The Government does not allow political parties or 
political demonstrations.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Qatar's state religion is Islam, as interpreted by the 
puritanical Wahabbi branch of the Sunni tradition.  Adherents 
of religions other than Islam are prohibited from public 
worship and may not proselytize.  In 1993 two leaders of a 
Christian group known as the Indian Brethren were arrested and 
subsequently deported, allegedly for converting a Hindu to 
Christianity.  Apostasy from Islam is a capital offense, 
although no one is known to have been executed for it.  The 
Government tolerates the private practice of non-Muslim 
religions, and non-Muslim parents may raise their children in 
their own faiths.  Private gatherings of non-Muslims are 
tolerated but are closely monitored for political content.  The 
Government allows Shi'a Muslims to practice their faith.  
However, the latter have tacitly agreed to refrain from the 
more public aspects of their rituals, such as self-flagellation.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

There are no restrictions on internal travel, except around 
sensitive military and oil installations.  Generally, women do 
not require permission from male guardians to travel.  However, 
Qatari men may prevent female relatives from leaving the 
country by placing their names with immigration officers at 
ports of departure.  Technically, Qatari women employed by the 
Government must obtain official permission to travel abroad 
when requesting leave, but it is not known to what extent this 
regulation is enforced.

All Qatari citizens have the right to return.  Foreigners are 
subject to immigration restrictions designed to control the 
size of the local labor pool.  Foreigners who work in Qatar 
must have a sponsor (usually an employer) in order to enter the 
country.  They must also obtain the sponsor's permission to 
leave.

The Government has no formal refugee policy.  Those attempting 
to enter illegally, including officials seeking to defect from 
nearby countries, are refused entry.  Asylum seekers who can 
obtain local sponsorship or employment are allowed to enter and 
may remain as long as they keep their employment.  Foreign 
women married to Qataris are granted residence permits and may 
apply for Qatari citizenship.  However, they are expected to 
give up their foreign citizenship in exchange.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens do not have the legal right to change their government 
or the political system peacefully.  Qatar has no formal 
democratic institutions.  There were reports that some of the 
19 signers of a December 1991 petition calling for greater 
political freedom and constitutional reform continued to be 
subject to travel restrictions.  Qatar's political institutions 
blend the characteristics of a traditional Bedouin tribal state 
and a modern bureaucracy.  There are no political parties, 
elections, or organized opposition groups.

The Amir exercises most executive and legislative powers, 
including appointment of Cabinet members.  His rule, however, 
is tempered by local custom.  Interlocking family networks and 
the recognized right of citizens to submit appeals or petitions 
directly to the Amir provide informal avenues for the redress 
of many grievances.  The custom of rule by consensus leads to 
extensive consultations among the Amir, leading merchant 
families, religious leaders, and other notables on important 
policies.  

Under Qatar's Basic Law of 1970, the Amir must be chosen from 
and by the adult males of the Al Thani family.  The current 
Amir, Khalifa bin Hamad, has designated his son, Hamad bin 
Khalifa, as the heir apparent.  This designation was made with 
the consent of the notables and religious leaders in accordance 
with local custom.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Local human rights organizations are not permitted to exist, 
and no international human rights organization is known to have 
asked to investigate conditions in Qatar.  


Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Religion, Sex, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

     Women

The activities of Qatari women are closely restricted both by 
law and by traditional customs.  For example, Qatari women are 
prohibited from applying for drivers' licenses unless they have 
permission from a male guardian.  This restriction does not 
apply to non-Qatari women.  Qatar adheres to Shari'a law in 
matters of inheritance and child custody.  While Muslim wives 
have the right to inherit from their husbands, non-Muslim wives 
do not, unless a special legacy is arranged.  In cases of 
divorce, it is rare for wives to obtain custody of children and 
impossible if the father is Muslim and the wife is not.  Women 
may attend court proceedings but are generally represented by a 
male relative. 

Qatari women are largely relegated to the roles of mother and 
homemaker, but some women are now finding jobs in education, 
medicine, and the news media. However, the number of 
professional women is too small to indicate whether they are 
receiving equal pay for equal work.  Increasingly, Qatari women 
are receiving government scholarships to pursue degrees at 
universities overseas.  Although Qatari women are legally able 
to travel abroad alone (see Section 2.d.), traditions and 
social pressures cause most to travel with male escorts.  

Violence against women, primarily foreign domestic workers, 
occurs in Qatar but is not believed to be widespread.  However, 
some foreign domestics working in Qatar (especially those from 
south Asia and the Philippines) have suffered severe 
mistreatment.  In keeping with Islamic law, all forms of 
physical abuse are illegal, and the maximum penalty for rape is 
death.  The police actively investigate reports of violence 
against women.  In 1992 and 1993, the Government demonstrated 
an increased willingness to arrest and punish offenders, both 
Qatari and non-Qatari.  However, most domestic worker victims 
do not press charges for fear of losing their jobs and being 
deported.  The law is applied unevenly, with Qataris facing 
lighter punishment than foreigners.

     Children

Great importance is placed upon children in Qatari society.  
The Government provides most medical care for free to all 
residents, including children.  Qatari children and the 
children of expatriates employed by the Government are allowed 
to enroll in public schools without charge.  

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Government discriminates against some citizens of 
non-Qatari origin.  In the private sector, many Qataris of 
Iranian extraction occupy positions of the highest importance.  
However, in government they are rarely found in senior 
decisionmaking positions.  

     Religious Minorities

Non-Muslims experience discrimination in employment, 
particularly in sensitive areas such as security and education. 

     People with Disabilities

The Government has not enacted legislation or otherwise 
mandated provision of accessibility for the handicapped, who 
also face social discrimination.  However, the Government 
maintains a hospital and schools that provide free services to 
the mentally and physically handicapped.  

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The right of association is strictly limited, and all workers, 
including foreigners, are prohibited from forming labor 
unions.  Despite this, almost all workers have the right to 
strike after their case has been presented to the Labor 
Conciliation Board and ruled upon.  Employers may close a place 
of work or dismiss employees once the Conciliation Board has 
heard the case.  The right to strike does not exist for 
government employees, domestic workers, or members of the 
employer's family.  No worker in a public utility or health or 
security service may strike if such a strike would harm the 
public or lead to property damage.  Strikes are rare, and there 
were none in 1993.

Qatar's labor law provides for the establishment of joint 
consultative committees composed of representatives of the 
employer and workers.  The committees may consider issues 
including work organization and productivity, conditions of 
employment, training of workers, and safety measures and their 
implementation.  


     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers are prohibited from engaging in collective bargaining.  
Generally, wages are set unilaterally by employers without 
government involvement.  Local courts handle disputes between 
workers and employers.  There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

There have been no reports of forced or compulsory labor, which 
are prohibited by law.  However, employers must give consent 
before exit permits are issued to any foreigner seeking to 
leave the country.  There have been instances of employers 
withholding this consent in retribution against departing 
employees.  

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Minors between the ages of 15 and 18 may be employed with the 
approval of their parents or guardians.  However, younger 
non-Qatari children sometimes work in small family-owned 
businesses.  Education is compulsory through age 15.  While the 
laws governing the minimum age for employment of children are 
not strictly enforced, child labor, either Qatari or foreign, 
is rare.  Very young children, usually of African or south 
Asian background, have been employed as riders in camel 
racing.  While little information is available on wages and 
working conditions for these children, accidents involving 
serious injury or death have been known to occur.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no minimum wage in Qatar, although a 1962 law gives 
the Amir authority to set one.  The 48-hour workweek with a 
24-hour rest period is prescribed by law, although most 
government offices follow a schedule of 36 hours a week.  
Employees who work more than 48 hours a week, or 36 hours a 
week during the Muslim month of Ramadan, are entitled to 
overtime.  This law is adhered to in government offices and 
major private sector companies.  It is not observed in the case 
of domestic and personal employees.  Domestic servants 
frequently work 7 days a week, more than 12 hours a day, with 
few or no holidays, and have no effective way to redress 
grievances against their employers.

Qatar has enacted regulations concerning worker safety and 
health, but enforcement, which is the responsibility of the 
Ministry of Industry and Public Works, is lax.  The Department 
of Public Safety oversees safety training and conditions, and 
the state-run petroleum company has its own set of safety 
standards and procedures.  The Labor Law of 1964, as amended in 
1984, lists partial and permanent disabilities for which 
compensation may be awarded, some connected with handling 
chemicals and petroleum products or construction injuries.  The 
law does not specifically set rates of payment and compensation.

Foreign workers must be sponsored by a legally recognized 
organization or a Qatari citizen.  Foreign workers need a 
sponsor to receive a visa to enter Qatar as well as the 
sponsor's permission to leave.  Theoretically, any worker may 
seek legal relief from onerous work conditions.  However, 
domestic workers, who experience the most difficulties, 
generally accept their situations in order to avoid 
repatriation.


[end of document]

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