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TITLE:  QATAR HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                             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 consultation with leading citizens, rule by 
consensus, and the right of any citizen to appeal personally to 
the Amir.  The Amir considers 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, is comprised of two sections:  the police and the 
General Administration of Public Security; and the 
Investigatory Police (Mubahathat) which is responsible for 
sedition and espionage cases.  There have been reports in the 
past that officers in the Mubahathat physically abused 
suspects.  There were no such reports in 1994.  The armed 
forces have under their jurisdiction another enforcement 
organization, known as the Intelligence Service (Mukhabarat), 
which intercepts and arrests terrorists and monitors political 
dissidents.

The State owns most basic industries and services, but the 
retail and construction industries are in private hands.  Oil 
is the principal natural resource, but the country's extensive 
natural gas resources are expected to play an increasingly 
important role.  The rapid development of the 1970's and early 
1980's created an economy in which expatriate workers, mostly 
South Asian and Arab, outnumber Qataris by a ratio of 4 to 1.  
The Government tries to reduce this ratio by offering many 
government jobs only to citizens.

There was no significant change in the human rights situation 
in 1994.  Human rights remain closely restricted.  The main 
problems continued to 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.  Women's 
rights are closely restricted, and non-Qatari workers face 
systematic discrimination.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or extrajudicial killing.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

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

There have been no reported instances of torture for several 
years.  The Government administers most corporal punishment 
prescribed by Islamic 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 are generally not afforded access to counsel and 
may be detained indefinitely while under investigation.  There 
are no known recent cases of incommunicado detention.  
Involuntary exile is rare.  There were no reported cases in 
1994.

     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 rare, are tried by ad hoc military courts.  Defendants 
tried by all courts have the right to appeal.  Occasionally in 
the Shari'a Court, the same judge will hear the original case 
and the appeal.

Defendants appear before a judge for a preliminary hearing 
within 7 days of their arrest.  Judges may extend pretrial 
detention a week at a time to allow the authorities to conduct 
investigations.  Defendants in the civil courts have the right 
to be represented by defense attorneys but are not always 
permitted to be represented by counsel in the Shari'a Court.

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.  The legal system is biased in favor of 
Qataris and the Government.  A Muslim litigant may request the 
Shari'a Court to assume jurisdiction in commercial or civil 
cases.  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.

Trials in the civil courts are public, but 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 a short deliberation.  Criminal cases 
are normally tried within 2 to 3 months after suspects are 
detained.  There is no provision for bail in criminal cases.  
However, foreigners charged with minor crimes may be released 
to a Qatari sponsor.  They are prohibited from departing the 
country until the case is resolved.

There are no known political prisoners.

     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 1994.  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

The freedoms of both speech and press are significantly 
restricted.  While citizens may express political opinions in 
private, the Government does not tolerate any public criticism 
of the ruling family or Islam and discourages criticism of 
other Arab governments.  Such restrictions apply to the 
privately owned press and the state-owned electronic media.  
Censors review the content of local newspapers, books, and 
other locally published material for objectionable material, 
but in general, journalists censor themselves.  Foreign 
journalists avoid challenging press restrictions because they 
fear the Government may cancel their residency permits.

Customs officials routinely screen imported video cassettes, 
audio tapes, books, and periodicals for politically 
objectionable or pornographic content.  Foreign cable 
television service was introduced in 1993, but censors review 
broadcasts for objectionable material.  There is no legal 
provision for academic freedom.  Most instructors at the 
University of Qatar exercise self-censorship.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

These rights are severely limited.  The Government does not 
allow political parties, political demonstrations, or 
membership in international professional organizations critical 
of the Government or any other Arab government.  Private 
social, sports, trade, professional, and cultural societies 
must be registered with the Government.  Security forces 
monitor the activities of such groups.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The state religion is Islam, as interpreted by the puritanical 
Wahabbi branch of the Sunni tradition.  Non-Muslims are 
prohibited from public worship and may not proselytize.  The 
Government tolerates private gatherings of non-Muslims but 
closely monitors them for political content.  Non-Muslim 
parents may raise their children in their own faiths.  The 
Government allows Shi'a Muslims to practice their faith.  
However, the latter have tacitly agreed to refrain from such 
public rituals as self-flagellation.

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.

     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, 
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.  Citizens critical of the Government 
may face restrictions on their right to travel abroad.

All citizens have the right to return.  Foreigners are subject 
to immigration restrictions designed to control the size of the 
local labor pool.  Foreign workers must have a sponsor, usually 
their employer, to enter or depart the country.

The Government has no formal refugee policy.  Those attempting 
to enter illegally, including persons 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 are employed.  Foreign women married 
to Qataris are granted residence permits and may apply for 
Qatari citizenship.  However, they are expected to relinquish 
their foreign citizenship.

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 have been 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.  The 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.  However, his rule is 
tempered by local custom.  Interlocking family networks, 
together with the right of citizens to submit appeals or 
petitions 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 the 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 local 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.  
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 tradition.  For example, 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.  The Government 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, 
wives rarely obtain custody of children and never if the wife 
is not a Muslim.  Women may attend court proceedings but are 
generally represented by a male relative.

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 determine whether they are 
receiving equal pay for equal work.  Increasingly, women are 
receiving government scholarships to pursue degrees at 
universities overseas.  Although women are legally able to 
travel abroad alone (see Section 2.d.), tradition and social 
pressures cause most to travel with male escorts.

Violence against women, primarily foreign domestic workers, 
occurs but is not believed to be widespread.  However, some 
foreign domestics, especially those from South Asia and the 
Philippines, have been severely mistreated by employers.  In 
keeping with Islamic law, all forms of physical abuse are 
illegal.  The maximum penalty for rape is death.  The police 
actively investigate reports of violence against women.  In the 
last few years, the Government has demonstrated an increased 
willingness to arrest and punish offenders, whether citizens or 
foreigners.  Offenders who are citizens usually receive lighter 
punishments than foreigners.  Abused domestic workers usually 
do not press charges for fear of losing their jobs.

There is no independent women's rights organization, nor would 
the Government permit the establishment of one.

     Children

There is no pattern of societal abuse of children.

     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.  Non-Muslims also encounter official prohibitions in 
the public practice of their religions (see Section 2.c.).

     People with Disabilities

The Government has not enacted legislation or otherwise 
mandated provision of accessibility for the handicapped, who 
also face social discrimination.  The Government does maintain 
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 1994.

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

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor.  Such activity is 
not known to exist.  However, employers must give consent 
before exit permits are issued to any foreigner seeking to 
leave the country.  Some employers temporarily withhold this 
consent to force foreign employees to work for longer periods 
than they wish.

     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.

Minors may not work more than 6 hours a day or more than 36 
hours a week.  Employers must provide the Ministry of Labor 
with the names and occupations of their minor employees.  The 
Ministry may prohibit the employment of minors in jobs which 
are judged as dangerous to the health, safety, or morals of 
minors.  Employers must also obtain permission from the 
Ministry of Education to hire a minor.

     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 Energy and Industry, 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 citizen or legally 
recognized organization to obtain an entry visa, and must have 
their sponsor's permission to depart the country.  
Theoretically, any worker may seek legal relief from onerous 
work conditions, but domestic workers generally accept their 
situations in order to avoid repatriation.


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[end of document]

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