Advocacy statements

UPR statement on Qatar

  • Date / 2014
  • Location / Qatar
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 6: Universal Periodic Review

ORAL STATEMENT                 

International Humanist and Ethical Union                  

United Nations Human Rights Council, 27th Session (8th – 26th September 2014)

Universal Periodic Review (UPR): Qatar

We welcome the recommendations set out in the report here today. We share the concerns expressed by a number of states on the tightly proscribed nature for freedom of religion, belief, expression and assembly in the country[1], and note that whilst Qatar’s constitution and other laws provide for freedom of association, public assembly, and worship, these freedoms – as clarified by Qatar during the UPR –  are framed within limits based on sharia law and “morality concerns”[2].

Blasphemy is punishable by up to seven years in prison, proselytizing on behalf of an organization, society, or foundation of any religion other than Islam can be punished by up to 10 years in prison, and, although not currently used, apostasy remains a capital offense in Qatar. This, Mr President, does not constitute freedom of religion or belief. We support France’s call for Qatar guarantee the exercise of freedom of religion.

The USA raised the 15-year sentence against poet Mohammed al-Ajami for a poem considered critical of the ruling family[3]. This case exemplifies the deeply worrying situation for freedom of expression in the country. Qatar’s defense during the UPR that Mr al-Ajami’s trial was a fair one[4] addresses only his rights in the context of the justice system and not his primary right to freedom of expression.

Whilst we note a number of states’ commendations when it comes to empowering women in Qatar, we remain deeply concerned at the overall situation for women. For example, provisions of Qatari law entrench a marked inequality between women and men[5]. Marital rape is not defined as a crime[6]. Qatar maintains criminal sanctions against sexual activity between consenting same-sex adults, and extramarital sex is subject to corporal punishment[7].

We urge Qatar to accept the recommendations of the UPR report, particularly those related to the aforementioned points and to ratify the ICCPR, an essential tool in upholding human rights and ensuring a mechanism of redress for Qatar’s citizens. We note particularly the need to integrate the Rabat Plan of Action in law, and reform of Qatar’s penal code so that all those in Qatar can enjoy human rights regardless of belief, expression or gender.


[1] See e.g. http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2013/qatar#.VBWZsS6Swi4, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE22/002/2014/en/2d351f00-1076-49a1-a128-06c3280a760e/mde220022014en.pdf

[2] A/HRC/27/15, §118

[3] http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/qatar-release-poet-sentenced-15-years-prison-2013-10-21

[4] A/HRC/27/15, §119

[5] E.g. Article 36 of the newly codified Family Law (No. 22 of 2006), two men must witness a marital contract and may testify to its validity before a court of law while women are excluded from acting as witnesses in such cases. Article 57 prevents husbands from hurting their wives physically or morally, but article 58 states that it is a wife’s responsibility to look after the household and to obey her husband.

[6] http://www.unicef.org/gender/files/Qatar-Gender-Eqaulity-Profile-2011.pdf

[7] http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/186656.pdf

Suggested academic reference

'UPR statement on Qatar', Humanists International

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