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  • CIVICUS at the 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    The opening week of the 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council will be dominated by the high level segment which will include approximately 99 high level speakers including top political leaders from UN member states as well as UN Secretary General, Mr Antonio Guterres, and the President of the General Assembly amongst others.
     
    To note is the oral update given by the High Commissioner for human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, on the 7th March which will address a number of pressing issues on the Councils agenda as well as bringing to light issues that are not being properly addressed by the Council and merit further attention.
     
    On the agenda this session of Interest to CIVICUS will be reports on the safety of journalists, the report on effectiveness and reform of the Human Rights Council, the report on Human Rights Defenders and People on the move by Michel Forst, SR for Human Rights Defenders. Also of note, the right to privacy and a number of country specific situations. CIVICUS will be following many discussions where civic space is touched upon and will continue to advocate for an enabling environment for civil society.

    Thursday, 1 March 14:00 - 15:00 (Room XXVII) | Human Rights & Citizenship in the Gulf Region | Organised by: SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, CIVICUS, International Federation for Human Rights, and
    Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme

    Across the Gulf Region, the relationship of citizenship and human rights has become a central issue. This event will examine how the authorities have increasingly sought to strip human rights defenders of their citizenship as a reprisal for their perceived political views and legitimate human rights work. See full invitation.

    PANELISTS: 

    • Tor Hodenfield, CIVICUS
    • Tara O'Grady, SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights
    • Mohamed Sultan, Bahrain Center for Human Rights
    • Abdelbagi Jibril, Darfur Relief & Documentation Centre
    • Moderator: Asma Darwish, SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights

    Friday, 2 March 11:30 - 13:00 (Room XXIV) | Ethiopia: The role of the international community in ending impunity and ensuring accountability for violations of fundamental rights | Organised by: Defend Defenders,Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia, and CIVICUS

    The event will provide an opportunity to examine the state of civic space in Ethiopia and the setbacks in has suffered over the last decade. Civic space has become increasingly controlled and restricted as human rights defenders have faced threats, arrests, and detention while attempting to exercise their rights to assembly, association, and expression. This even will ook at these threats and trends. See full invitation.

    PANELISTS: 

    • Yared Hailiemariam, Director, Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
    • Tsedale Lemma, Editor-In-Chief, Addis Standard Magazine
    • Bayisa Wak-Woya, Director, Global Refugee & Migration Council 
    • Moderator: Hassan Shire, Executive Director, DefendDefenders

    Friday, 2 March 15:00-16:30 (Room XI) | Counterterrorism, Emergency Powers, and the Protection of Civic Space | Organised by: Article 19, ECNL, CIVICUS, ICNL, World Movement for Democracy, and International Federation for Human Rights

    The use of exceptional national security and emergency powers to combat terrorism has become increasingly common. The event will look at how counterterrorism measures and emergency powers have increasingly resulted in the restrictions of fundamental freedoms, including the rights to assembly, association and expression. See full invitation.

    PANELISTS: 

    • Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism
    • Kerem Altiparmek, Ankara University, Faculty of Political Science
    • Yared Hailemariam, Director, Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
    • Lisa Oldring, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
    • Sonia Tanic, Representative to the UN, International Federation for Human Rights
    • Moderator: Nicholas Miller, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

     

  • CIVICUS at the 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    The opening week of the 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council will commence with the high level segment which will include approximately 99 high level speakers including top political leaders from UN member states as well as UN Secretary General, Mr Antonio Guterres, and the President of the General Assembly amongst others.
     
    To note is the oral update given by the High Commissioner for human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, on the 7th March which will address a number of pressing issues on the Councils agenda as well as bringing to light issues that are not being properly addressed by the Council and merit further attention.
     
    Of interest to CIVICUS will be reports on the safety of journalists, the report on effectiveness and reform of the Human Rights Council, the report on Human Rights Defenders and People on the move by Michel Forst, SR for Human Rights Defenders. Also of note, the right to privacy and a number of country specific situations. CIVICUS will be following many discussions where civic space is touched upon and will continue to advocate for an enabling environment for civil society.

    Thursday, 1 March 14:00 - 15:00 (Room XXVII) | Human Rights & Citizenship in the Gulf Region | Organised by: SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, CIVICUS, International Federation for Human Rights, and Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme

    Across the Gulf Region, the relationship of citizenship and human rights has become a central issue. This event will examine how the authorities have increasingly sought to strip human rights defenders of their citizenship as a reprisal for their perceived political views and legitimate human rights work. See full invitation.

    PANELISTS: 

    • Tor Hodenfield, CIVICUS
    • Tara O'Grady, SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights
    • Mohamed Sultan, Bahrain Center for Human Rights
    • Abdelbagi Jibril, Darfur Relief & Documentation Centre
    • Moderator: Asma Darwish, SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights

    Friday, 2 March 11:30 - 13:00 (Room XXIV) | Ethiopia: The role of the international community in ending impunity and ensuring accountability for violations of fundamental rights | Organised by: Defend Defenders,Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia, and CIVICUS

    The event will provide an opportunity to examine the state of civic space in Ethiopia and the setbacks in has suffered over the last decade. Civic space has become increasingly controlled and restricted as human rights defenders have faced threats, arrests, and detention while attempting to exercise their rights to assembly, association, and expression. This even will ook at these threats and trends. See full invitation.

    PANELISTS: 

    • Yared Hailiemariam, Director, Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
    • Tsedale Lemma, Editor-In-Chief, Addis Standard Magazine
    • Bayisa Wak-Woya, Director, Global Refugee & Migration Council 
    • Moderator: Hassan Shire, Executive Director, DefendDefenders

    Friday, 2 March 15:00-16:30 (Room XI) | Counterterrorism, Emergency Powers, and the Protection of Civic Space | Organised by: Article 19, ECNL, CIVICUS, ICNL, World Movement for Democracy, and International Federation for Human Rights

    The use of exceptional national security and emergency powers to combat terrorism has become increasingly common. The event will look at how counterterrorism measures and emergency powers have increasingly resulted in the restrictions of fundamental freedoms, including the rights to assembly, association and expression. See full invitation.

    PANELISTS: 

    • Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism
    • Kerem Altiparmek, Ankara University, Faculty of Political Science
    • Yared Hailemariam, Director, Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia
    • Lisa Oldring, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
    • Sonia Tanic, Representative to the UN, International Federation for Human Rights
    • Moderator: Nicholas Miller, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

    Thursday, 15 March 15:00-16:00 (Room XXII) | The Link Between the Deterioration of Human Rights in Egypt and the Massive Violations in the Gulf States | Gulf Center for Human Rights | International Federation for Human Rights | OMCT | International Service for Human Rights | CPJ | ALQST | CIVICUS | CPJ

    A look at the middle east governments' coordinated efforts to target human rights defenders and journalists across the region. See full invitation.

    PANELISTS:

    • Yahya Al-Assiri, Director of ALQST for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
    • Justin Shilad, Committee to Protect Journalists
    • Nardine Al-Nemr, Academic & Activists from Egypt
    • Sara Brandt, Advocacy & Campaigns Officer, CIVICUS

     

  • Country recommendations on civic space for UN´s Universal Periodic Review

    CIVICUS makes six joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space: Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Nicaragua and Qatar

    CIVICUS and its partners have made joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 6 countries in advance of the 33rd UPR session (April-May 2019). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.  

    Cote d’Ivoire: CIVICUS and the Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des droits Humains (CIDDH) examine the steps taken by the government of Cote d’Ivoire to address restrictions on civic space.  We highlight the promulgation of the law on Human Rights Defenders and the subsequent Resolution passed to ensure implementation of the law. However, we note ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression, the targeting of journalists and bloggers by the authorities, attempts to undermine freedom of association and the tendency to use excessive force to disperse peaceful protests.  

    Democratic Republic of Congo (FR): CIVICUS and Ligue des Droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs (LDGL) analyse the multiple unwarranted restrictions on civic space in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Authorities have systematically banned protests, in particular protests organised by civil society, social movements and opposition, while security forces have used excessive force against peaceful protesters, leading to hundreds of deaths. Additionally, HRDs and activists are subject to arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment, aimed at preventing them from exercising their democratic and civic rights. These unwarranted restrictions have intensified since the start of the political and security crisis in 2015, precipitated by President Kabila’s attempts to remain in power despite a constitutional two-term limit. 

    Equatorial Guinea: CIVICUS, the Committee Protect Journalists (CPJ), Centro de Estudios e Iniciativas para el Desarrollo (CEID), ONG – Cooperación y Desarrollo and EG Justice examine ongoing restrictions on freedom of association, attacks and intimidation of journalists and bloggers and the general disenabling environment for freedom of expression and independent media agencies.  We further discuss threats faced by human rights defenders and the frequent violent repression of peaceful assemblies.

    Ethiopia: CIVICUS, the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), DefendDefenders, PEN International, Article 19, the Consortium of Ethiopian Rights Organizations (CERO), and Access Now examine the Government of Ethiopia’s fulfilment of the rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, and unwarranted restrictions on HRDs since its previous UPR examination in 2014. While the government recently committed to addressing a range of restrictive legislation, alongside releasing large numbers of political prisoners, at the time of writing, the restrictive legal framework remains in place. Acute implementation gaps were found regarding recommendations relating to civic space including the rights to the freedoms of association and peaceful assembly.

    Nicaragua (ES): CIVICUS and the Nicaraguan Network for Democracy and Local Development Federation (Red Local) address concerns about the violent repression of protests and the criminalisation of protest leaders and demonstrators, particularly of the student and peasant movements, as well as the intensification of the persecution and intimidation suffered by CSOs supporting social movements in Nicaragua. Along with the growing restrictions on freedom of expression that stem from media concentration in government hands and pressures against journalists and independent media covering issues such as corruption, elections and infrastructure or extractive projects, the submission further examines the alarming increase of unwarranted restrictions on the press linked to the coverage of protests and their violent suppression and related human rights violations.

    Qatar: CIVICUS and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights highlight the continued restrictions on freedom of association and expression in Qatar, which include unwarranted arrests on foreign journalists and confiscation of equipment, and restrictions on online content under the Cybercrime Prevention Law. The authorities in Qatar also continue to restrict the formation of independent civil society organisations committed to the advancement of human rights, and there have been severe and undue limitations to freedoms of assembly resulting in almost no protests in Qatar despite serious human rights violations.

     

  • Detention and disappearance of activists is widespread

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    -Statement on report of Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

    CIVICUS thanks the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for their report. We are concerned that it shows Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia - Human Rights Council member states from the Middle East – as well as Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, and the UAE, all using arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance to silence civil society and shut down dissent with impunity. 

    Bahrain arbitrarily detained Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab on 9 April 2011 and 13 June 2016 respectively. They are among dozens of human rights defenders whom the authorities have arbitrarily detained, including Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and Naji Fateel, both subject to mistreatment by officials. The authorities denied them medical treatment and interfered with their family visits. We are particularly alarmed by the Working Group’s reports of reprisals against those who have been subject of an urgent appeal or opinion in Bahrain. This falls far short of the standards that every state, but particularly members of the Human Rights Council, should uphold.

    We condemn Egypt's arbitrary arrest of lawyer Ibrahim Metwally in 2017 en route to attend an HRC session, to present cases of enforced disappearance, and his ill-treatment. His and the cases of 12 others arbitrarily arrested in June 2019 reflect Egypt's closure of civic space.

    In Iraq, we condemn the detention of journalists, protesters and civil society activists. During protests in Basra, at least seven Iraqi journalists were assaulted or detained including Reuters photographer Essam al-Sudani.

    Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on women’s and other human rights defenders forms its systematic use of arbitrary detention in which thousands have been detained.

    Those detained in 2018 included Aziza al-Yousef; Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and other women’s rights advocates who also campaigned to end the driving ban, as well as writers, academics and family members of WHRDs. “Charges” were only brought against them in March 2019. They remain in prison, alongside members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA); Mohammed al-Qahtani, and Abdullah al-Hamid; blogger Raif Badawi and human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair.

    Iran systematically arbitrarily detains trade unionists, HRDs, minority rights activists and lawyers like Nasrin Sotoudeh and Narges Mohammadi.

    Kuwait’s arbitrary arrest in July, of stateless rights activists including Abdulhakim al-Fadhli exemplifies the intersectionality of rights and how guaranteeing civil space bolsters other rights. 

    The UAE’s March 2017 arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance of HRD Ahmed Mansoor continues to tarnish the UAE, showing that its “year of tolerance” does not include human rights.

    Mr. President, the report of the Working Group shows that the use of arbitrary detention – often without charge, recourse to access independent legal representation, and in poor conditions of detention – remains an active method to quell dissent across the Middle East. 

    CIVICUS joins civil society in calling for full cooperation with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and we call on states who have instrumentalized arbitrary detention to immediately release those detained and provide justice and remedy to victims and their families. 

    We ask the Working Group: what more can be done to ensure implementation of its appeals and opinions in states where arbitrary detention remains so widespread?

     

  • QATAR: ‘Labour reforms need to continue after the World Cup is over’

    Vani SaraswathiCIVICUS speaks aboutthe World Cup in Qatar with Vani Saraswathi, editor-at-large and director of projects at Migrant-Rights.org andthe author ofStories of Origin: The Invisible Lives of Migrants in the Gulf.

    Migrant-Rights.org is aGulf-basedcivil society organisation that works to advance the rights of migrant workers in Gulf countries. It documents migrant narratives and promotes local discussion and campaigns to bring changes in policies, practices and attitudes towards migrant workers.

    What human rights violations have you documented in construction works for the 2022 Qatar World Cup?

    The economy of Qatar is heavily dependent on migrant workers, who make up over 93 per cent of the labour market. The construction sector iseven moreheavily dependent on migrant labour, and due to the nature of the work exploitation and rights violations are much more visible than in other sectors. This also happens in the hospitality sector, domestic work and fishing and agriculture, but tends to be more hidden.

    Since 2000, Qatars population has grown very fast, from 700,000 people in 1999 to 1.7 million in 2010 to close to three million now. The infrastructure and the services needed to host such a large population have not kept pace: people were being recruited quickly, but support systems were not built fast enough.

    Rights violations have shifted over the years from poor accommodation to crowded accommodation to rampant wage theft. As the scale of construction operations grew, corporations resorted to subcontracting, with worker recruitment, safety and welfare left in the hands of subcontractors and no effective legal mechanism for oversight, which enabled corruption.

    Unfortunately, the narrative on corruption around worker recruitment focuses on origin countries because for one of the richest countries in the world it is easier to blame poorer countries than take responsibility for the problem. The fact that many of the kickbacks are filling the pockets of procurement officers and businesspeople in destination countries is overlooked.

    This is the environment in which abuse takes place. Workers are entering the country already in debt and often do not receive the salary they were promised.

    Certain steps have been taken to fix this issue. The Qatar Visa Centre, for instance, takes care of the last mile of recruitment so workers sign their contract and undergo medical testing before they come. Fees are also being paid in Qatar. But the bulk of the exploitation happens on the job, when people are not paid what they were promised, or they are made to work overtime with no extra pay. This is not being properly addressed.

    Migrant workersmain concern is to be able to send money home, and as long as they get theirmoney they are often willing to tolerate many abuses: social isolation, cultural exclusion, terrible living conditions and lack of access to justice. These issues are ongoing.

    On other issues, such as workplace safety and heat stress, Qatar has been working on upping standards. There is still a lot to be done, but in the context of the Gulf, summer midday work bans and heat stress regulations are a big step forward. But it is not sufficient.

    A pending issue is health deterioration. Most construction workers are recruited when they are in their early 20s and usually undergo stringent medical tests to ensure they are in best health. But their health deteriorates quickly post-arrival. Due to the inhospitable and unhygienic living and working conditions, they often develop various comorbidities including high blood glucose levels and hypertension. There are also several cases of unexplained deaths of previously healthy, young men, but their deaths are attributed to natural causes or cardiac arrests, and Qatar has failed to investigate the real causes. In contrast to those who have accidents, whose injuries are assessed and who may get a disability allowance or insurance, those developing severe health conditions receive no compensation. Instead, they suffer the consequences when their productivity diminishes, and the burden is passed on totheir familiesand origin countries.

    Do you think recent labour reforms will have a positive effect?

    One of the main reforms has been the removal of the requirement for foreign workers to apply for an exit permit to leave Qatar. The other Gulf countries, except for Saudi Arabia, had already done the same, allowing for some freedom of movement.

    Another important change has been the removal of the requirement of a no objection certificate. This means that all workers, including domestic workers, are allowed to change jobs at any point in their labour contract. This measure triggered a lot ofpushback.

    A new online system was set up that allowed people to search and apply for jobs. It initially went well, but employers started pushing back when they saw the prospects of an exodus and feared losing control of their workers. The Shura Council, the legislative body, also weighed in, following which Qatar introduced a new requirement: to go through the online process to change jobs, workers must submit a resignation letter stamped by their employer. This became a de facto no objection certificate. There are strong power dynamics at play. For instance, there have been cases of workers getting approval to change jobs after not having been paid for months, changing jobs and then having their authorisation withdrawn and made to go back.

    A non-discriminatory minimum wage has also been introduced. Although pretty low, it is still a minimum wage. The basic monthly salary amounts to approximately US$275, or around US$500 if thecompany does notprovide accommodation and food. It is not much in a country with a per capita GDP of above US$60,000, and hence applies only to low-income migrants from Asia and Africa.

    Additionally, across Gulf countries there is a system in place for all workers to be paid electronically. Its aimed at preventing non-payment but has repeatedly failed to do so. The system should spot non-payment cases early on, rectify them and hold the employer accountable, but it does not. Non-payment cases typically arise when workers who havent been paid for several months file a complaint. Setting aside the problem of domestic workers, a persistent problem of non-payment results from smaller companies at the bottom of the supply chain being unable to pay if they are not paid on time by their client.

    The government of Qatar also set up a work insurance fund to protect workers when employers fail to pay them. When a workers complaint is resolved by either a court or the dispute settlements committee, a mechanism that handles workerscomplaints, the fund must pay. There are certain criteria to qualify and there is a cap on how much a worker can receive that is lower than what most of them are owed. Itdoesn’tmatch the scale of abuse that happens, but its still something.

    Finally, management-worker joint committees have been allowed within companies. This was presented as either a step towards allowing unionisation, or a substitute for it. But the power dynamics are so skewed there is very little scope for collective bargaining, and they do not remotely resemble unions, even if the joint committees have elected representatives.

    What role has civil society played in raising awareness of these and other rights violations?

    A transnational advocacy network comprising mostly trade unions and international human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch was activated following Qatars designation as host of the 2022 World Cup.

    The World Cup was a good entry point as it forced Qatar to allow for investigations. The network obtained access and produced reports. A lot of international journalists came in. This is something we must recognise, because other countries that held big events, such as theDubai Expo or the Formula One race in Bahrain,didn’t allow this kind of scrutiny.

    But Qatar hasnt always managed the attention well and sometimes got too defensive or complained that its efforts to open up and allow criticism were underappreciated. But while the government engaged with foreign or international trade unions speakingon behalf of Asian and African workers, it never allowed criticism to be voiced internally and never allowed those workers to organise. The same goes for civil society.

    At the local level there are charitable institutions but there is not a rights-oriented civil society. The closest there is to this are organisations such as Migrant-Rights.org, working regionally. To nurture civilsociety, space would need to exist to speak about womens rights, LGBTQI+ rights, citizenship rights and many other issues people are grappling with but cannot currently express. But the government knows this is a Pandoras box. The most it will do is selectively open up some space for issues that are less threatening, such as the situation of migrants, as long as local activism around it remains suppressed.

    The situation is different from what happens in Bahrain and Kuwait, where despite harsh oppression,there are still independent voices rising and fighting back. People are being jailed or forced into exile but there is still a civil society vibrancy thatdoesn’t exist in the open in Qatar. It is probably present behind closed doors and in smaller spaces. People are talking about these issues, but they are not speaking aloud. Qatar,however, recently held its first elections for the Shura Council, so things may be about to change.

    Has there been any accountability for violations of workersrights?

    The problem in Qatar is that laws have been enforced and reforms have been implemented only in response to criticism. This time around, it was in response to the attention brought by international organisations under the spotlight of the World Cup. The problem with this kind of response is that it tends to stay on paper because it is not the result of dialogue with the key stakeholders, namely employers and workers, and an understanding of the system on the ground.

    Enforcement is difficult because local employers are pushing back: they feel that workersrights come at a cost that is being paid from their pockets. The government has made no attempt to talk to stakeholders on the ground, and it wont be able to implement any reform without them. Qatar is a tiny country. Were talkingabout a handful of extremely powerful families who are in business, in the security apparatus, in the Shura Council, everywhere. Some of their companies have a proven record of poor practices, including using short-term visas and not giving end-of-service payments, and they continue to be awarded new contracts over and over. They are not held to account.

    What needs to be done so the rights of migrant workers in Qatar are not forgotten when the World Cup ends?

    The World Cup is just one event and a starting point for limitless business ambitions. If you look at industry reports, it is clear that large-scale infrastructure projects are going to continue. I only hope that those who shone the spotlight on Qatardidn’t do it because of the sport, but because they really care about migrant workers. Because if that is the case, they should continue promoting reforms and monitoring their effective implementation after the World Cup is over.

    Qatar needs to ensure workers get their wages and fair compensation and that nobody leaves the country in distress.Otherwise rights violations will continue to happen, and its not right. I hope the government at least realises that even when the World Cup is over, itdoesn’t need that kind of bad publicity.


    Civic space in Qatar is ratedrepressed’by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch withMigrant-Rights.orgthrough itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@MigrantRights and@vanish_forever on Twitter.

     

  • Statement: Qatar's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Joint statement on Qatar's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    CIVICUS and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights note that since its 2nd UPR cycle in 2014, Qatar acceded to the ICCPR and the ICESCR as a major step towards realizing human rights in the country. However, there remain critical gaps in implementation, particularly around civic space. Of the 31 recommendations related to civic space, 24 were accepted and seven were noted. However, Qatar has not implemented 13 of these recommendations, including to revise all laws which restrict freedom of assembly and association.

    Mr President, civic space in Qatar remains closed. Law No. 12 of 2004 and Law No. 18 still place considerable hurdles, restrictions and fines on civil society looking to form associations or peacefully assemble. Furthermore, while revisions have been made to Qatar’s Kafala (sponsorship) system, authorities continued to place limitations on the rights of foreign workers to join unions or engage in peaceful strike action.

    Human rights defenders continue to face restrictions in their work. On 28 April 2018, Dr Najeeb Al-Nuaimi, a well-known human rights lawyer who voluntarily defends prisoners of conscience in Qatar, received the latest in a series of travel bans. Few human rights defenders confidently continue their work under the constant threat of detainment. Furthermore, freedom of expression remains under threat in Qatar. On 16 April 2019, authorities arbitrarily closed the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, an organization committed to freedom of expression.

    Moreover, the 2014 Cybercrimes Prevention Law places heavy penalties on journalists and researchers including fines of up to a maximum of 500,000 Riyals (approx. US$137,500) and prison sentences ranging from one to 10 years. We are therefore concerned that Qatar did not accept a number of recommendations under this UPR cycle relating to online expression, including to reform the repressive Cybercrime Law.

    Mr President, in this context, civic space remains under constant threat in Qatar. We call on the government to fully adopt and implement the provisions of the ICCPR and ICESCR into national legislation as per their obligations, and take all the necessary steps to protect and promote civic space both in law and in practice in the country, by implementing all UPR recommendations related to these rights.