Families are being torn apart by the rift between Qatar and three other Gulf Arab states which began six months ago, Amnesty International said yesterday, despite measures to ease the impact of the crisis on ordinary citizens.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, along with Egypt, imposed travel, economic and diplomatic sanctions on Qatar in June over allegations of supporting terrorism.
Qatar denies the charge.
The human rights group, citing interviews with individuals and Qatari officials, said thousands of people had been affected by the rift, which has split families, raised food prices and made visits to Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia more difficult.
Diplomatic efforts led by Kuwait to resolve the dispute have so far failed to achieve a breakthrough.
The report was based on interviews with 44 affected individuals conducted in late November in Qatar as well as meetings with Qatari officials.
Despite measures to allow families in mixed marriages to visit, many were finding it difficult to comply with procedures required to apply for a “laissez-passer” that allows residents of Qatar to travel to see loved ones in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain or the UAE, the report said.
It said that there was scant, or no, information about the application process on official UAE and Saudi ministry websites, while travel to Bahrain had become more difficult since Manama imposed an entry visa requirement for Qatari nationals and residents at a time when the embassy in Doha is closed.
“Affected families told Amnesty International that hotlines announced by the Bahrain, Saudi Arabian and UAE governments were difficult to access,” the rights watchdog said.
Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research for the Middle East at Amnesty International, said that by imposing travel restrictions on ordinary people, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have “violated the right to family life, education and freedom of expression”.
“Since this dispute began in June, our fears about its potential to rip families apart have been cruelly and emphatically realised,” Maalouf said in a statement.
Meanwhile in Rome, the chairman of the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) Dr Ali bin Smaikh al-Marri yesterday called on the United Nations to issue an international declaration against blockading people that also calls for eliminating civilians from any political disputes.
Al-Marri was speaking to the press following a hearing he had at the Italian Parliament with several members of the Chamber of Deputies to discuss the impact of the siege imposed on Qatar.
The meeting was the last in a series that the NHRC chief held in Italy over the past months to discuss the siege’s impact.
He had called on the Italian Parliament and others around the world to support the victims by condemning the siege as a crime and a collective punishment against the people.
He also discussed the possibility of launching an international initiative against the blockading of people, which became a regular occurrence during times of conflict and war.
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