Document - Qatar should take steps to end use of torture and other ill-treatment
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL�PUBLIC STATEMENT
AI Index: MDE 22/003/2012
28 November 2012
Qatar should take steps to end use of torture and other ill-treatment
Amnesty International today urged the Qatari government to take immediate steps to implement the concluding observations issued on 23 November by the UN Committee against Torture concerning Qatar’s implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Convention).
The Qatari authorities have an opportunity to show that they take the conclusions and recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture seriously. Amnesty International reiterates the calls made in the concluding observations and urges Qatar to take a first step towards meeting its obligations under the Convention by implementing the Committee’s key recommendation to “take effective measures to ensure that all detainees, including non-citizens, are afforded, in practice, all fundamental legal safeguards from the very outset of detention, including the rights to promptly receive independent legal assistance and a medical exam by an independent doctor, to contact relatives, and to appear before a judge within a time limit in accordance with international standards.” Such action would help to reduce the risk of torture and other ill-treatment that Amnesty International has documented.
Amnesty International expressed concern that under the Protection of Society Law people can be held without charge or trial for up to six months by order of the Minister of Interior acting on the recommendation of the Director General of Public Security. Such detention may then be extended for up to two years at the discretion of the Prime Minister. The Law on Combating Terrorism also provides for prolonged detention without charge or trial. These laws make no provision for detainees to have access to their families or legal counsel, effectively permitting them to be held incommunicado. Such laws facilitate torture and other ill-treatment
The Committee also expressed deep concern with regards to the legislation and called on Qatar “to ensure that all fundamental safeguards are provided, in law and in practice, for all persons deprived of their liberty. This includes the availability of judicial and other remedies that will allow them to have their complaints promptly and impartially examined, and to challenge the legality of their detention or treatment”.
The Protection of Society Law makes no provision for detainees to have access to relatives or legal counsel. Since 2006, around a dozen people detained under the Protection of Society Law have been subjected to incommunicado detention for weeks or months without charge or trial. The Law on Combating Terrorism also makes no provision for detainees to have access to their families or legal counsel, effectively permitting them to be held incommunicado.
The Committee has called on Qatar “to review the use of incommunicado detention with a view to its abolition and ensure that solitary confinement remains an exceptional measure of limited duration, in line with international standards.” They also called for the Protection of Society Law and the Law on Combating Terrorism to be amended to bring them into conformity with the Convention.
Amnesty International is concerned that allegations of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment continue to be reported, that Qatari laws lack sufficient safeguards to protect detainees and torture and other ill-treatment and that there are no adequate systems in place, in practice, to ensure prompt, independent investigation of allegations of torture or other ill-treatment and adequate remedy or redress for victims.
Amnesty International has received around a dozen reports of torture or other ill-treatment against detainees during the period covered by the Qatari government’s report (2004-2009) and since then. The methods of torture and other ill-treatment reported to Amnesty International include beating, suspension for hours, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement in small cells for weeks or months, being made to stand for long hours continuously, being made to sleep on the floor without a mattress, denial of access to toiletries such as soap, and being subjected to grossly excessive air conditioning for prolonged periods. In some instances detainees have been subjected to threats that could amount to torture or other ill-treatment.
As recommended by the Committee, the government should, in particular, ensure that all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment are investigated promptly and thoroughly by independent bodies, with no institutional or hierarchical connection between the investigators and the alleged perpetrators among the police.
Amnesty International welcomed the submission of Qatar’s recent amendment to the definition of torture in the Criminal Code which brings it into line with that set out in Article 1 of the Convention.
However, other articles of the Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedures relating to the prohibition and penalization of acts that may amount to torture or other ill-treatment are of concern due to their vague wording and, as such, fall below the standards required under Article 1 of the Convention. This includes Article 40 of the Code of Criminal Procedures which, although it prohibits “physical and mental harm”, does not define clearly the meaning of this term and how it is to be interpreted in practice. Similarly, Articles 160 and 161 of the Criminal Code prescribe penalties for public officials who commit acts of “cruelty” or “harm” individuals without providing a definition for those terms.
Amnesty International is also concerned that corporal punishment continues to be applied and that dozens of people have been given flogging sentences – ranging from 40 to 100 lashes – since 2004, including at least 45 between 2009 and 2011. The Committee called on Qatar to “put an end to its imposition of corporal punishment, which constitutes a breach of the Convention,” and modify its legislation accordingly.
The Committee expressed concern that Qatar is seeking to retain a vague and extremely broad reservation to Articles 1 and 16 of the Convention insofar as they are incompatible with the precepts of Islamic law and the Islamic religion. Amnesty International fears that maintaining this reservation to Convention could be linked to the provision of corporal punishment in Article 1 of the Qatari Criminal Code. Amnesty International calls on Qatar to withdraw the reservation so as to ensure it is in compliance with the requirements of the Convention.
The Committee also expressed concerns that “Qatar continues to be a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution.” It was also concerned about reports of widespread torture or other ill-treatment and abuse of migrant workers, in particular under the sponsorship system and constraints on lodging complaints against their employers, as well as the lack of information on cases in which sponsors were punished for torture or other ill-treatment of migrant workers. The Committee called on Qatar “to ensure systematic procedures to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as those arrested for immigration violations or prostitution, and to provide protection for victims and their access to medical, social rehabilitative and legal services, including counseling services, as appropriate”. They also called on them “to strengthen its efforts to provide legal protection to migrant workers, including female domestic workers, in its territory against torture, ill-treatment and abuse and guarantee access to justice.” In that regard they called on them to “adopt, as a matter of urgency, labor legislation covering domestic work and providing legal protection to migrant domestic workers against exploitation, ill-treatment and abuse” and “consider abolishing the sponsorship system for all migrant workers”.
The UN Committee against Torture is the expert body established by the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to monitor countries’ compliance with that treaty. It is composed of 10 independent, impartial members who are elected by the states parties to the treaty. Governments must submit periodic reports to the Committee which in turn make recommendations to further the state party’s implementation of the treaty.
Amnesty International submitted a written briefing to the UN Committee against Torture on 12 October 2012. The full briefing is available at: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE22/001/2012/en
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