Header image for news printout

Qatar needs urgent paradigm shift to protect people from arbitrary detention, UN experts conclude

Arabic version

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. 


*The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was established by the former Commission on Human Rights in 1991 to investigate instances of alleged arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Its mandate was clarified and extended by the Commission to cover the issue of administrative custody of asylum-seekers and immigrants. In September 2019, the Human Rights Council confirmed the scope of the Working Group's mandate and extended it for a further three-year period. The Working Group is comprised of five independent expert members from various regions of the world: Mr. José Guevara (Mexico; Chair-Rapporteur), Ms Elina Steinerte (Latvia; Vice-Chair on Follow-up), Ms Leigh Toomey (Australia; Vice-Chair on Communications), Mr. Sètondji Roland Adjovi (Benin) and Mr. Seong-Phil Hong (the Republic of Korea).

Database of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

The Working Group is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page — Qatar

For more information and press inquiries, please contact:

Ms Lucie Viersma (+41 22 928 9380 / lviersma@ohchr.org); Ms Isabelle Heyer (+41 79 444 4828 / iheyer@ohchr.org); Francisco Alfonzo (+41 79 444 4860 / falfonzo@ohchr.org) or write to wgad@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact:

Mr. Jeremy Laurence (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

Concerned about the world we live in? Then STAND UP for someone's rights today.  #Standup4humanrights and visit the web page at http://www.standup4humanrights.org