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Title:  Qatar Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996




                              QATAR


Qatar, an Arab state on the Persian Gulf, is a monarchy without 
democratically elected institutions or political parties.  It is 
governed by the ruling Al-Thani family through its head, the Amir.  In 
June the ruling family, in consultation with other leading Qatari 
families, replaced Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani with his son, 
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.  This transition of authority did not 
represent a change in the basic governing order.  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.

Qatar has efficient police and security services.  The civilian security 
force, 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 were no reports this year that 
officers in the Mubahathat physically abused suspects.  The armed forces 
have under their jurisdiction the Intelligence Service (Mukhabarat), 
responsible for combating terrorism and monitoring political dissidence.

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 will 
play an increasingly important role.  The rapid development of the 
1970's and 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.  Human 
rights remain restricted, particularly 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 other extrajudicial killings.

  b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated 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.  In May an American citizen was 
sentenced to receive 90 lashes during a 6-month prison term for 
homosexual activity.  However, the individual and his family rejected a 
pretrial offer of expulsion without prison or lashes in the hope of 
being able to return to Qatar.  The sentence was carried out on June 6.  
A physician was present and the prisoner completed the ordeal bruised 
but in good health.  He was released from Central Prison on July 22 and 
departed Qatar.

Prison conditions generally meet minimum international standards.

  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 this year.

  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.

Although nominally independent, the judiciary is buried under the 
bureaucratic layers of two ministries.  Civil (or Adlea) courts are 
subordinate to the Ministry of Justice, and religious (or Shari'a) 
courts fall under the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs.  The 
prosecutors fall under the Ministry of Interior.  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 interpreters, 
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 were no reports of 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 1995.  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

Although freedom of speech and press is significantly restricted, the 
Government announced in October the suspension of press censorship.  
Social and political pressures for self-censorship will determine 
whether or not the new policy will usher in a period of increased public 
information and debate.  The ultimate impact of this change is mitigated 
by the existence of a separate and uneffected censorship organ within 
the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs.  This office is charged 
with the protection of public morality and religious values.  As a 
result, cable TV programming is still delayed for censorship, and 
"offensive" photos and stories continue to be blacked out of such 
publications as Time and Newsweek.

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.

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, 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 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 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 
matters.

Under the Basic Law of 1970, the Amir must be chosen from and by the 
adult males of the Al Thani family.

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 organizations are known to have asked to 
investigate conditions in Qatar.

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

Institutional, cultural, and legal discrimination based on gender, race, 
religion, social status, and disability exists.

  Women

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.

The activities of 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.

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

  Children

The Government demonstrates it commitment to children's rights through a 
well-funded, free public education system (elementary through 
university) and a complete medical protection program for Qatari 
children.  However, children of most foreigners are denied free 
education and have only limited medical coverage.

There is no pattern of societal abuse of children.

  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 maintains a hospital and schools that 
provide free services to the mentally and physically handicapped.

  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.).

  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.

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 1995.

Labor law provides for the establishment of joint consultative 
committees composed of representatives of the employer and workers.  The 
committees do not discuss wages, but may consider issues including work 
organization and productivity, conditions of employment, training of 
workers, and safety measures and their implementation.

Since July Qatar has been suspended from the U. S. Overseas Private 
Investment Corporation (OPIC) insurance programs because of the 
Government's lack of compliance with internationally recognized worker 
rights standards.

  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.  Three quarters of the 
work force are migrant workers, who are frequently dependent on a single 
employer for residency rights.  This leaves them vulnerable to abuse.  
For instance, 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.  
Little information is available on wages and working conditions for 
these children.

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, 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.

(###)

[end of document]

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