Qatar: From Implementation to Effectiveness
In March 2014, Qatar presented complementary information following the Committee against Torture's concluding observations issued on 25 July 2006. The Committee against Torture reviewed Qatar's initial report during its 36th session in May 2006 and issued its concluding considerations on 25 July 2006. In 2012, Qatar submitted its second periodic report upon which the Committee adopted its recommendations on 29 November 2012.
Alkarama carefully reviewed the information provided by Qatar in March 2014 to the Committee and, whilst acknowledging the efforts made in order to comply with international standards, highlighted several remaining loopholes in Qatar's domestic law and practice. Hoping that a constructive dialogue will be established between the Qatari authorities and the Committee's experts in order to clarify the present situation, Alkarama wishes to contribute to the upcoming review of the State party with a List of Issues. Lists of issues presented by NGOs are meant to direct the attention of the Committee for the forthcoming State Party review. The aim is to alert the Committee to any case, theme, or area which should be identified as priority areas warranting further examination, and submit information to support their arguments.
The list presented by Alkarama highlighted the main following issues:
Definition and criminalisation of torture
Alkarama notes with satisfaction the incorporation by Qatar of the definition of torture enshrined in Article 1 of the Convention against Torture in its domestic legislation in Article 159bis of the Criminal Procedure Code, noting that the practice of torture is criminalised in the latest article. However, Alkarama regrets the lack of information over the effective referral and application of these provisions before domestic courts, expressing its concern over:
- Various irregularities in the courts' functioning.
- Missing legal guidelines as to the interpretation of the elements constituting torture and other ill-treatment (the severity of pain and suffering; the definition of the intention to cause high level of pain and suffering including through recklessness and so on).
Absolute and non-derogating prohibition of torture
Alkarama notes that the Qatari legal framework does not include any provision as to ensure that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever; including a state or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, and that no order from a superior officer or a public authority may be invoked as a justification of torture or ill-treatment. Alkarama acknowledges that Article 36 of the Qatari Constitution guarantees the right to freedom from torture or degrading treatment, but:
- Qatar domestic law should enshrine the criteria for assessing superior's responsibility for acts of torture committed by its subordinate (preventing the latest to avoid accountability or escape criminal responsibility for torture or ill-treatment committed by subordinates).
- Special protection against retaliation of any kind should be provided for subordinates who refuse to follow an illegal order. The same protection should be extended to those who report CAT violations to their authorities.
Arbitrary detention and conditions of detention and CAT provisions
Qatar has adopted provisions to ensure the protection of detainees from torture and ill-treatment: legal safeguards are provided to detainees, such as the right not to be detained without warrant, to be informed of the reasons of arrest and charges and so on (Article 39 of the Constitution; Articles 40, 43, 112 and 113 of the Code of Criminal Procedure). However, Alkarama has identified several issues in the information provided by Qatar in follow-up to the Committee's concluding observations:
- Alkarama has documented the case of Mr Al Mansoori and Mr. Al Baker, subjected to incommunicado detention and torture, inhuman and degrading treatments.
- The notions of "custody during preliminary investigation" and "pre-trial detentions" are not clearly limited and the role of the prosecution during each phase is not clear.
- In spite of the specification related to the length of pre-trial detention, Qatar's report doesn't provide any limit of its renewal (paragraphs 8 and 9).
- "The pre-trial detention must not exceed half of the maximum penalty established for the offence" could result on an extended pre-trial detention and seriously affect the detainee's rights in case of long sentence, such as life sentence.
As can be deducted, in this case pre-trial detention can be renewed indefinitely which is contrary to the rights of detainees, and can lead to the practice of torture and ill-treatment while in detention.
Framework and practice in counter-terrorism and terrorism prevention
After having approved the laws on the "Protection of Community" and on "Combatting Terrorism" and after its access to the Gulf Cooperation Council Convention on Combating Terrorism, Qatar reduced the safeguards enshrined in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Qatar should keep in mind that interrogation techniques used in counter-terrorism operations must be under strict scrutiny and that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever including terrorism threats may be invoked as a justification of torture. Alkarama wishes to highlight that the non-use of statements obtained through torture or other ill-treatment in judicial proceedings is guaranteed by Article 15 of the CAT Convention.
Expulsion, return or extradition
Alkarama remains concerned about the lack of legal provisions expressly prohibiting the expulsion, return or extradition of a person to another State, where there were substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be subjected to torture (Article 3 of the Convention) as well as the absence of an effective appeals process available to persons likely to be subjected to such treatment. During the review of Qatar's initial report, Qatar expressed its intention to incorporate Article 3 of the Convention into domestic law. To date, no step has been taken to fulfil this obligation.
- The case of Mr Awadh Mohammed Awadh Al Hayki could represent an obvious failure in the State's obligation to protect the physical integrity of anyone who is under its jurisdiction.
- The extensively documented case of a group of individuals, suspected by the Egyptian authorities of belonging to Muslim Brotherhood for whom they have requested their extradition from Qatar to Egypt, is concerning Alkarama, even if, to date, the Qatari authorities have delayed their extradition. There is no guarantee that they will not extradite them in the near future.
The cases highlight the need for the Qatar to adopt specific legislation in this regard as to implement Article 3 of the Convention and grant the individuals facing expulsion, return or extradition the right to efficiently refer to a judicial authority.
For more than a decade, Qatar has been adopting important reforms in the field of human rights and making ongoing efforts to comply with international standards by revising its legislation and ensuring a stronger protection of human rights. Qatari legislation grants its citizens fundamental rights and freedoms; however, its application leaves room for improvement and Alkarama hopes that the provided List of Issues will help Qatar in its implementation.
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