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Qatar needs urgent paradigm shift to protect people

DOHA / GENEVA (14 November 2019) – There is an urgent need for a paradigm shift in Qatar to guarantee the right of every individual to personal liberty, as well as independent and effective judicial control over detention, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention* said today at the end of an official visit to the country.

“Detention is currently the general rule in cases such as debt, adultery, intimate relations out of wedlock and drug use,” said the Working Group, presenting its preliminary findings at the end of a 10-day assessment.

“Qatar’s recent accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is a significant step. Its implementation is now key.

“Work must start to ensure that the Covenant’s provisions are fully reflected in the domestic legal system, which currently falls significantly short of the requirements to guard against the arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

“Existing laws that allow prolonged administrative detention without judicial control and due process guarantees ought to be abolished, as these place individuals outside the protection of the law. We call on the authorities to immediately repeal the Protection of Community Law, the State Security Law and the Law on Combating Terrorism.”

The Working Group commended the community-based approach used at the Hamad Psychiatric Hospital, which prioritises personal liberty rather than institutional care, and seeks to reduce the stigma surrounding psychosocial disability.

However, the experts expressed serious concern about the de facto deprivation of liberty at the hands of private individuals, which disproportionally affects women through the system of legal guardianship, as well as migrant workers, who are prevented from leaving their employers.

“By ratifying the Covenant, Qatar has undertaken to protect the rights of everyone in its territory. It has a positive duty to protect people from violations of their right to liberty in the custody of State institutions, as well as by private parties,” the experts said.

During the visit, from 3 to 14 November 2019, the three members of the delegation, Leigh Toomey, Elina Steinerte and Sètondji Roland Adjovi, met Government officials, judges, lawyers, civil society representatives and other relevant groups. They visited 12 different places of detention, interviewing more than 200 people deprived of their liberty.

The Working Group will present the final report of its visit to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2020.

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