U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Qatar
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Qatar, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1b1c.html [accessed 22 July 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
QATARQatar, 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 1995, 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 former Amir and his retinue were implicated in a foiled coup attempt in February 1996. Subsequently, in October 1996, the former Amir concluded an agreement to return an unspecified amount of funds from his private accounts to the state treasury, a move widely seen as tacit recognition of his son's regime. The former Amir remains outside of Qatar. The amended Provisional Constitution, promulgated in April 1972, institutionalizes the customs and mores of the country's conservative Islamic heritage. The Amir holds absolute power, the exercise of which is influenced by religious law, consultation with leading citizens, rule by consensus, and the right of any citizen to appeal personally to the Amir. The Amir usually legislates only after consultation with leading citizens, an arrangement institutionalized through the advisory council, an appointed body that assists the Amir in formulating policy. The judiciary is nominally independent, but most judges hold their positions at the Government's pleasure. Qatar has efficient police and security services. The civilian security force, controlled by the Interior Ministry, comprises two sections: The police and the General Administration of Public Security; and the Investigatory Police (Mubahathat) which is responsible for sedition and espionage cases. The Interior Ministry is also in the process of establishing a special state security investigative unit (Mahabat) to perform internal security investigations throughout the government and to gather intelligence. In addition, there is an independent civilian intelligence service (Mukhabarat). 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 playing 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 or 5 to 1. The Government tries to reduce this ratio by offering many government jobs only to citizens. The Government restricts citizens' rights. However, there was limited progress in a few areas. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. Other problems include arbitrary detentions in security cases, restrictions on the freedoms of speech, press, association, religion, and workers' rights. There was some progress in the areas of press freedom and religion. Women's rights are closely restricted, and non-Qatari workers face systematic discrimination.