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UN human rights expert urges four Gulf states to lift unilateral sanctions against Qatar

DOHA (12 November 2020) – The UN Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures and human rights, Alena Douhan, today urged the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Arab Republic of Egypt to drop sanctions imposed in 2017 against Qatar.

At the end of a two-week visit to Qatar, Douhan said the sanctions had harmed the ability of Qataris to enjoy a number of fundamental rights and freedoms connected to family life, education, work, health, private property, religion, expression and access to justice.

“During my visit, I met a large number of victims of human rights violations caused by the sanctions, including couples in mixed marriages and their children, migrant workers who lost their jobs and benefits, Qatari nationals with jobs or businesses in the four countries that imposed the sanctions, and many others,” said Douhan.

She also met government officials, diplomats, international agencies, non-governmental humanitarian and social organizations, lawyers, journalists and others.

The four countries imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism and of being too close to Iran. They closed their land borders, air and sea ports, and airspace to Qataris. Their measures also affected Qatari students studying abroad and Muslims wanting to make the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia.

Douhan stressed that unilateral measures are only legal if they are authorized by the UN Security Council, or used as countermeasures, or do not breach any obliation of states, and do not violate fundamental human rights.
She called on the countries to resume cooperation and to settle political disputes on the basis of the rule of law. She plans to issue a full report on her mission in September 2021.


Ms Alena Douhan (Belarus) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights by the Human Rights Council in March 2020. Ms. Douhan has extensive experience in the fields of international law and human rights as, a Professor of international law at the Belarusian State University (Minsk), a visiting Professor at the the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed conflict, (Bochum, Germany) and the Director of the Peace Research Centre (Minsk). She received her PhD at the Belarusian State University in 2005 and obtained Dr. hab. in International Law and European Law in 2015 (Belarus). Ms. Douhan’s academic and research interests are in the fields of international law, sanctions and human rights law, international security law, law of international organizations, international dispute settlement, and international environmental law.

Special Rapporteurs are 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 organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact please contact Sharof Azizov (+41 22 917 9748 in Geneva and +41 76 691 0826 in Qatar / sazizov@ohchr.org)

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org and Kitty McKinsey (kmckinsey@ohchr.org

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

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