Qatar has acceded to four of the seven major United Nations conventions on human rights, namely: the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1976), the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (2000), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (2009), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1995). Qatar also acceded to the first and second optional protocols attached to the Rights of the Child Convention. The first protocol concerns the involvement of children in armed conflicts (2002) and the second protocol concerns the sale of children and exploiting them in prostitution and pornographic materials (2001).
Qatar has also acceded to five of the eight International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions concerning human rights, namely: Convention (29) on Forced Labour (1998); Convention (111) on the Prevention of Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation (1976); Convention (182) on Worst Forms of Child Labour (2000), Convention (138) on the Minimum Age (2006), and Convention (105) on the Abolition of Forced Labour (2007).
Qatar made reservations on certain provisions of the conventions it acceded to:
- The Convention Against Torture: general reservation on any interpretation of the convention's provisions that contradicts the principles of Islamic law and religion, as well as on the jurisdiction of the committee stipulated in article (21 and 22) of the Convention.
- The Convention on Rights of the Child: Qatar partially lifted its reservations on some articles contradicting the Islamic law in the CRC of 1989. However, Qatar has kept its reservations on article (2) and (14).
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Article 2 (a) as it is inconsistent with the provisions of article 8 of the Constitution. Article 9, paragraph 2, as it is inconsistent with Qatar’s law on citizenship. Article 15, paragraph 1, as it is inconsistent with the provisions of Islamic law. Article 15, paragraph 4, as it is inconsistent with the provisions of family law and established practice. Article 16, paragraph 1 (a) and (c), as they are inconsistent with the provisions of Islamic law. Article 16, paragraph 1 (f), as it is inconsistent with the provisions of Islamic law and family law.
Qatar has agreed to the "Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam" issued in 1990 by foreign ministers of Muslim countries. The declaration is a guiding document that does not require ratification. Qatar also acceded to the "Arab Charter of Human Rights/Amended" prepared by the Arab Summit in Tunisia in May 2004. Qatar did not ratify the charter just like most Arab countries.
Human Rights Institutions
There are few governmental institutions that care for human rights, such as The Higher Council for Family Affairs, and the human rights administration at the ministries of foreign affairs and the interior. There is also a national institution called "The National Committee for Human Rights" that was established by an Amiri decree on November 12, 2002. Its functions include realizing the goals of the international charters and conventions on human rights; reviewing existing legislation to make sure that it is consistent with the principles of human rights; hearing complaints concerning human rights and suggesting ways of addressing them; and disseminating the culture of human rights. The National Committee is composed of public personalities and some ministers. Although this committee does not comply with Paris criteria as a result of its heavy governmental component, it has exhibited a serious attitude in dealing with human rights cases and it discussed sensitive national issues. The Committee's reports were critical of national legislation that does not adhere to international standards and recommended their modification. The Committee submits periodic reports to the government. It also publishes an annual report and has an internet website. (www.nhrc.org.qa).
Achievements on the Road to Good Governance
1. Promulgation of a new constitution on June 8, 2004 that became effective on June 7, 2005. The constitution guarantees several rights and basic freedoms, including equality before the law, prohibiting discrimination, restricting individual freedoms only by law, and guaranteeing public freedoms especially freedom of the press, expression, association and worship. The constitution also established separation of power and provided for establishing a 45-member consultative council composed of two thirds elected members and one-third appointed by the Amir.
2. Promulgation of a new penal code (No. 13/2004) and a new law for criminal procedures (No. 23/2004). The penal code considers torture a crime and imposes heavy sentences on perpetrators. Both laws assert the sanctity of private life.
3. Replacing direct censorship on the press by self-censorship since 1995, dissolving the ministry of information, licensing Al-Jazeera satellite station that created a qualitative difference in the freedom of Arab media, and establishing forums for international dialogues on "democracy and free-trade", and on "dialogue among religions".
4. Promulgating a new law in May 2004 that allows citizens to establish occupational associations, and gives non-citizens the right to join those associations.
5. Promulgating a new labour law on May 19, 2004 that give workers for the first time the right to establish trade unions and the right to strike if no friendly compromise is reached with their employers, with the exception of workers in vital facilities. The law also granted women and men equal rights and obligations.
6. Promulgating a new law in November 2004 that permits holding public assemblies and organizing rallies by prior approval of the ministry of interior.
7. Approval of a draft law by the consultative council that forbids employing children in camel races and punishes violators with one month imprisonment and 6000 Riyals fine (US$ 1500). The law sets minimum age for participants in camel races at 18 years old.