An independent UN expert lauded all the steps taken by the Qatar government to mitigate the negative effects of the sanctions imposed on people living in the country, including those from the four blockading countries.
UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Alena Douhan, highlighted the Qatar government’s efforts to help many citizens of blockading countries who want to remain in Qatar by relaxing residency permit requirements.
“It (Qatar) did not stop fulfilling its duties arising from multilateral and bilateral international agreements and from its GCC and Arab League memberships,” she told reporters at the press briefing held at Ritz Carlton Doha yesterday.
Apart from welcoming Kuwaiti efforts for mediation, Douhan also lauded Qatar’s path for not taking any retaliatory acts, which she believes can only worsen the situation.
She cited Qatar’s adherence to the rule of law and attempts to appeal to the competent international organisations as the means of peaceful settlement of international disputes between the states involved, and its efforts to implement international human rights standards.
Douhan said she welcomed recent progress of Qatar in improving its domestic legislation and practice in countering terrorism, citing its active participation in the global fight against terrorism.
“In addition, Qatar is a party to 15 multilateral agreements relating to security and counter-terrorism, and it is an active contributing member of the Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, a non-profit foundation based in Geneva, Switzerland, and the first global effort to support local community efforts to build resilience to violent extremism,” she said.
Qatar, Douhan noted, is also well-known for setting examples of pioneering of the promotion of freedom of expression in the region.
The Special Rapporteur said that demands to shutdown Al Jazeera and other Qatari news organisations – “the banning of them on their territories and the criminalization of expressions of sympathy with Qatar by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain – violate the rights of freedom of opinion and expression.”
Such act, she said, “is contrary to the international human rights obligations which are legally binding for all five countries and clearly undermines freedom of expression, creating a chilling effect that stifles civil society as well as provokes uncertainty and fear among writers and journalists.”
“The reported and well-documented anti-Qatari incitement campaigns in the media of the Four States also violate the rights to freedom of expression, as well as obligations to take all necessary measures to prevent and prosecute incitement to racial discrimination. Insufficient transparency adds to forming the feelings of fear and uncertainty that result in mental suffering,” she noted.
The Special Rapporteur urged Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain – all GCC members - to resume their close co-operation and use existing dispute settlement mechanisms.
She said that the “extraterritorial character” of international crimes such as human trafficking and terrorism, among others, can be effectively fought through cooperation and mutual assistance.
“The Special Rapporteur would like to call to on all parties to defuse tension and tackle together the seriousness or severity of hate speech that may undermine traditional coherence and historical peaceful co-existence of people living in all five countries through full respect of fundamental human rights standards protecting free speech and expression, as well as six criteria and indicators derived from the Rabat Plan of Action,” she said.