42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Joint statement on Qatar's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights
CIVICUS and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights note that since its 2nd UPR cycle in 2014, Qatar acceded to the ICCPR and the ICESCR as a major step towards realizing human rights in the country. However, there remain critical gaps in implementation, particularly around civic space. Of the 31 recommendations related to civic space, 24 were accepted and seven were noted. However, Qatar has not implemented 13 of these recommendations, including to revise all laws which restrict freedom of assembly and association.
Mr President, civic space in Qatar remains closed. Law No. 12 of 2004 and Law No. 18 still place considerable hurdles, restrictions and fines on civil society looking to form associations or peacefully assemble. Furthermore, while revisions have been made to Qatar’s Kafala (sponsorship) system, authorities continued to place limitations on the rights of foreign workers to join unions or engage in peaceful strike action.
Human rights defenders continue to face restrictions in their work. On 28 April 2018, Dr Najeeb Al-Nuaimi, a well-known human rights lawyer who voluntarily defends prisoners of conscience in Qatar, received the latest in a series of travel bans. Few human rights defenders confidently continue their work under the constant threat of detainment. Furthermore, freedom of expression remains under threat in Qatar. On 16 April 2019, authorities arbitrarily closed the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, an organization committed to freedom of expression.
Moreover, the 2014 Cybercrimes Prevention Law places heavy penalties on journalists and researchers including fines of up to a maximum of 500,000 Riyals (approx. US$137,500) and prison sentences ranging from one to 10 years. We are therefore concerned that Qatar did not accept a number of recommendations under this UPR cycle relating to online expression, including to reform the repressive Cybercrime Law.
Mr President, in this context, civic space remains under constant threat in Qatar. We call on the government to fully adopt and implement the provisions of the ICCPR and ICESCR into national legislation as per their obligations, and take all the necessary steps to protect and promote civic space both in law and in practice in the country, by implementing all UPR recommendations related to these rights.