Qatar: Arbitrary travel ban on citizens

(Beirut) – Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Center for Human Rights said today that Qatar’s state security apparatus has arbitrarily and indefinitely prevented at least four citizens from traveling without court proceedings or a clear legal basis. State security forces arrested one of the men in October 2020 after he posted posts on Twitter criticizing the arbitrary travel ban on him and others and he remains in custody.

Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Center for Human Rights interviewed three of these men and sources close to the fourth and reviewed documents related to the four men, which revealed that the state security apparatus imposed travel bans without any legal process. and in some cases effectively. challenged the court orders. One of the men was also subject to financial fines, including the freezing of his bank accounts. These arbitrary sentences resulted in material and psychological damage to the persons concerned and their families.

“The imposition of an arbitrary ban on indefinite travel is in stark contrast to the image of a country that is keen on the rights that the Qatari authorities are trying to present to the world, especially before the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” said Michael Page. Middle East deputy. director at Human Rights Watch. “These arbitrary measures by state security undermine confidence that the Qatari authorities will respect the due process.”

A law passed in 2003 sets out the powers and objectives of the Qatari State Security Apparatus and gives the apparatus broad powers that are hardly subject to any oversight. Under this law, the agency is directly subordinate to the Emir and has the authority to monitor and investigate [إخضاعها] No supervision unless authorized by the Emir.

This law prohibits individuals, governmental and non-governmental organizations from concealing or refraining from providing information requested by the head of the state security apparatus, “whatever its nature”. The law also prohibits the head of the agency from disclosing his activities, information about his work, the means and sources of obtaining them, except with special permission from the Emir.

The four men are: Abdullah Al Mohannadi, a businessman who has been barred from traveling by authorities since 2013; ANDSaud Khalifa Al Thani, A former Home Office employee challenges the travel ban imposed since 2016; and the doctor Naxhib Al NuaimiHe is a former justice minister who has been banned from traveling since 2017; ANDMuhamed Al SulaitiA Qatari citizen residing in the US has been banned from traveling since 2018 and has been banned since October 2020.

A source close to Al-Sulaiti said that security forces in civilian clothes arrested him on October 4, 2020 at his home in Doha and kept him uncommunicated for two weeks. Weeks before his arrest, Al-Sulaiti had posted on social media a statement issued by Amnesty International detailing the arbitrary travel ban he and other Qatari citizens had been subjected to. Amnesty International also said it published surveyHe used his Twitter account to collect data on Qataris being arbitrarily barred from traveling, and his account was suspended following his arrest.

Al-Sulaiti has lived in the US since 2015, where he had two businesses. A source close to him said authorities arrested him for the first time in 2018 at Hamad International Airport as he was preparing to leave the country and arbitrarily detained him for five months without charge. He has been banned from traveling since his release.

The Interior Ministry imposed a travel ban on Saud Khalifa Al Thani in 2016 by administrative order and without any explanation. He said he has filed a case in the Court of First Instance to challenge the ban on April 1, 2019. The two organizations have reviewed court documents, which show the court ruled in his favor, and overturned the 2016 travel ban. , effective May 08. 2019.

Despite this, Al Thani said unidentified persons arrested him at his home the same month without submitting an arrest warrant. He added that they took him to a State Security Agency headquarters, where security people questioned him about a news item about his case and how he obtained a copy of the document mentioning the authority that issued the ban. of travel in 2016. State Security forces detained Al Thani for 37 days, then released him without charge. The State Security issued another travel ban at the same time, for unspecified reasons related to the State Security.

The Court of Appeals rejected Al Thani’s appeal on December 2, 2021. He remains unable to leave the country, despite his numerous requests for medical reasons.

Qatari authorities detained Abdullah al-Mohannadi for almost three weeks in 2007 after Interior Ministry agents questioned him about criticism of ministry officials through online platforms. In September 2013, authorities arbitrarily banned al-Mohannadi from traveling and froze all his personal and commercial financial resources without a court order.

The state security apparatus prevented banks from accepting its financial operations and prevented Hamad International Airport from allowing it to travel through it. In November 2018, al-Mohannadi received a text message saying the travel ban had been lifted, but when he tried to travel to Turkey in January 2019, airport officials prevented him from leaving, telling him he was still subject to an established travel ban. by the state security apparatus.

Dr. Al-Nuaimi, who served as Minister of Justice from 1995 to 1997, has been subject to an arbitrary travel ban since 2017. Al-Nuaimi was informed of this ban in January 2017 in a text message from the Directorate of General Passport and the Public Prosecutor’s Office with his ID card number. In June 2017, a court order was issued in Al-Nuaim’s favor stating that the reasons for the travel ban had expired and thus the travel ban issued to the complainant would be revoked. However, authorities continue to prevent Al-Nuaimi from leaving the country.

Al-Nuaimi was the poet’s defense lawyer Muhamed El-Ajmi He was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for a poem he recited in a private forum criticizing the emir. Al-Ajmi was released in March 2016 following Amir’s pardon.

Article 7 of the Law on the State Security Service, as amended in 2008, authorizes the head of the agency to prevent those accused of crimes within the agency’s jurisdiction from leaving the country for a maximum of 30 days before appearing before the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The detention may be extended by order of the Public Prosecutor’s Office for a renewable period of six months. The article does not provide that the person in question should be informed of the travel ban, or provide reasons for it, or basic evidence, nor does it provide for any means to legally challenge the decision.

Following an official visit to Qatar in 2019, the United Nations Arbitrary Detention Working Group said it had been denied access to the State Security Apparatus detention center and that the law establishing the apparatus “does not provide for any judicial oversight of detention, and the Working Group was informed that this detention, in practice, could lead to long periods of detention contrary to international human rights norms.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Qatar ratified in 2018, states that everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own. This treaty allows states to impose restrictions on this right as long as they are provided by law and when they are necessary and proportionate to protect national security, public order, public health or morals, or the rights and freedoms of others.

Khaled Ibrahim, executive director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, said: “Open disobedience to court orders sends a message that security authorities can act as they wish and act outside the rule of law.”

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