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Amnesty International Report 2004 - Qatar

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 26 May 2004
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2004 - Qatar , 26 May 2004, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Covering events from January - December 2003

At least one possible prisoner of conscience was released but 39 others, including 19 under sentence of death, remained held. A number of Yemeni nationals were feared to be at risk of refoulement.


The government adopted a permanent written Constitution following a referendum held in April. Unlike the previous Constitution, it contained a number of human rights clauses, including guarantees for the rights to freedom of opinion, assembly, association, worship, political asylum, privacy and presumption of innocence, and the independence of the judiciary. The clauses also included prohibition of unlawful detention, torture, refoulement (forcible return) and forcible exile of Qatar nationals. However, most of these clauses are formulated in ways that leave their interpretation in practice dependent on existing or future laws. As such, the letter and spirit of the clauses can be seriously undermined by other laws.

The Constitution makes no reference to women's rights although Article 8 expressly excludes female members of the ruling family from accession to the throne. However, two women were appointed to public office in May – Sheikha bint Ahmed al-Mahmud as Minister for Education and Teaching, and Sheikha Ghaila bint Mohammad bin Hamad Al-Thani, a member of the ruling family, as Deputy Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The NHRC, which was set up in May on the basis of Law 28 of 2002, comprises 13 members including eight officials from government ministries and five prominent Qatar nationals. The tasks as stipulated by the Law include acting as an advisory body to the government on the promotion of human rights and responding to individual complaints concerning human rights.

Possible prisoners of conscience and other political prisoners

At least one possible prisoner of conscience was freed. Firas Nassuh Salim al-Majali, a Jordanian journalist with Qatar's television station, was sentenced to death in October 2002 on charges of spying for Jordan. On 17 March the Emir issued a decree pardoning him and ordering his immediate release.

The status of 39 other political prisoners, including possible prisoners of conscience, sentenced in connection with a coup attempt in 1996, remained unchanged. Twenty were serving life imprisonment and 19 were under sentence of death. They were originally sentenced to life imprisonment but this was changed to capital punishment by the Court of Appeal in May 2001. The final decision rests with the Emir who has the power to commute the death sentences. By the end of the year no decision was known to have been taken by the Emir. All 39 were sentenced after trials that fell far short of international standards of fair trial.

Risk of refoulement

A number of Yemeni nationals were reportedly detained on the basis of an "anti-terrorism" policy and were at risk of refoulement to Yemen where they could face torture and ill-treatment or other serious human rights violations.

In October Yemen's Interior Minister reportedly said that Yemen was negotiating with Qatar for the transfer of an undisclosed number of Yemeni nationals detained in Qatar in connection with "terrorism". He apparently added that the Qatar government had indicated its willingness to hand over the individuals to Yemen. The detainees were not known to have been given access to lawyers or the judiciary to challenge their refoulement in light of the risks of human rights violations they could face in Yemen.

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