Committee against Torture
Concluding observations on the third periodic report of Qatar *
1.The Committee against Torture considered the third periodic report of Qatar (CAT/C/QAT/3) at its 1627th and 1630th meetings (see CAT/C/SR.1627 and 1630), held on 1 and 2 May 2018, and adopted the following concluding observations at its 1647th and 1648th meetings, held on 15 May 2018.
2.The Committee expresses its appreciation to the State party for accepting the simplified reporting procedure and submitting its periodic report since it improves the cooperation between the State party and the Committee and focuses the examination of the report as well as the dialogue with the delegation.
3.The Committee appreciates having had the opportunity to engage in a constructive dialogue with the State party’s delegation, and the responses provided to the questions and concerns raised during the consideration of the report.
4.The Committee commends the State party’s initiatives to amend its policies and procedures in order to afford greater protection of human rights and apply the Convention, in particular:
(a)The Council of Ministers’ decision of 14 March 2018 to accede to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
(b)The establishment of the National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking, in 2017;
(c)The adoption of the First National Development Strategy (2011–2016) and the Second National Development Strategy (2017–2022), which address human rights issues related to education, health, the environment, the rights of migrant workers, women’s empowerment and children’s rights.
5.The Committee appreciates that the State party maintains a standing invitation to the special procedure mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, which has allowed independent experts to carry out visits to the country during the reporting period.
C.Principal subjects of concern and recommendations
Pending follow-up issues from the previous reporting cycle
6.While noting with appreciation the information provided by the State party on 10 March 2014 under the follow-up procedure (CAT/C/QAT/CO/2/Add.1), the Committee still considers that the recommendations included in paragraphs 10 (fundamental legal safeguards), 14 (complaints and prompt, thorough and impartial investigations) and 19 (violence against women, including domestic violence) of the previous concluding observations (CAT/C/QAT/CO/2) have not yet been implemented (see paras. 13, 23 and 45, respectively, of the present document).
Absolute prohibition of torture
7.The Committee is concerned that there is no clear provision in the State party’s legislation to ensure that the prohibition of torture is absolute and non-derogable. It also regrets that the State party continues to maintain a vaguely defined reservation of imprecise scope to articles 1 and 16 of the Convention (arts. 1, 2 (2), 4 and 16).
8. The State party should unambiguously reaffirm the absolute prohibition of torture and publicly announce that anyone committing such acts or being found to be otherwise complicit or acquiescent in torture will be held personally responsible before the law for such acts and will be subject to criminal prosecution and appropriate penalties. In particular, the State party should:
(a) Ensure that its legislation reflects the absolute prohibition of torture, in accordance with article 2 (2) of the Convention, which stipulates that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to paragraph 5 of its general comment No. 2 (2007) on the implementation of article 2, in which it states, inter alia, that exceptional circumstances also include any threat of terrorist acts or violent crime, as well as armed conflict, international or non-international. In addition, the Committee states in the same general comment that it rejects any religious or traditional justification that would violate that prohibition;
(b) Give further consideration to withdrawing its reservation to articles 1 and 16 of the Convention, in accordance with article 19 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
Criminalization of torture
9.While taking note of the explanations offered by the State party’s delegation that the crime of torture carries a minimum penalty of three years’ imprisonment (see arts. 22 and 159 bis of the Criminal Code), the Committee remains concerned that perpetrators of acts of torture may receive a reduced sentence under article 92 of the Criminal Code (arts. 1 and 4).
10. The State party should ensure that the crime of torture is punishable by appropriate penalties that take into account its grave nature, in accordance with article 4 (2) of the Convention.
Statute of limitations
11.The Committee is concerned that the crime of torture is subject to a statute of limitations of 10 years, pursuant to article 14 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
12. The State party should establish that there is no statute of limitations for the offence of torture, in order to preclude any risk of impunity in relation to the investigation of acts of torture and the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators.
Fundamental legal safeguards
13.The Committee takes note of the procedural safeguards set out in the Constitution and the Code of Criminal Procedure, but reiterates its concern about the continuous absence of an explicit provision on the right to request and receive an independent medical examination promptly upon deprivation of liberty. In this regard, the Committee notes the delegation’s assertion that medical personnel have an obligation to document and report any evidence of maltreatment observed during medical examinations. It regrets, however, that the State party did not indicate the number of cases reported by medical personnel as potential cases of torture or ill-treatment during the period under review. The Committee is further concerned that, under article 117 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, detainees can be held for as long as four days, renewable for another four days, before being brought before a judge. Moreover, in the case of crimes that may prejudice the national economy, the eight-day period can be extended for a similar period or periods (art. 2).
14. The Committee reiterates the recommendation contained in its previous concluding observations (see CAT/C/QAT/CO/2, para. 10) that the State party should take effective measures to ensure that all detainees are afforded, in law and in practice, all fundamental safeguards from the very outset of their deprivation of liberty, in conformity with international standards, including: the right to have immediate access to an independent medical doctor, regardless of any medical examination that may be conducted at the request of the authorities; and the right to be brought promptly before a judge. The State party should also make the necessary amendments to its Code of Criminal Procedure to abolish the provision under which detainees may be held in police custody for an eight-day period or longer, depending on the offence and introduce in its place a maximum period in line with international standards.
National security and counter-terrorism legislation
15.The Committee expresses its regret that the State party has not yet amended the provisions in the Law on the Protection of Society (Law No. 17 of 2002), the Law on Combating Terrorism (Law No. 3 of 2004, as amended on 20 July 2017) and the Law on the State Security Agency (Law No. 5 of 2003), which provide for broadened executive powers of administrative detention without adequate judicial review and thereby weaken the fundamental safeguards for persons deprived of their liberty. Under article 18 of the Law on Combating Terrorism, a suspect can be held for as long as 15 days, which may be extended up to six months, without a warrant or judicial oversight before being brought before a court. Similarly, article 7 of the Law on the State Security Agency allows for persons to be held for 30 days before being brought before the public prosecutor, and article 2 of the Law on the Protection of Society permits pretrial detention, with the approval of the Prime Minister, for up to one year for crimes related to “State security” and “decency or public morals”. In the same line, a person arrested under article 7 of the Law on the Establishment of the Military Intelligence Service (Law No. 10 of 2004) may be detained for up to two weeks before being brought before the public prosecutor, a period that can be extended for another two weeks in the case of members of the armed forces and for an additional week in the case of any other person. The Committee regrets that, despite its request, no information has been received on the number of persons arrested by the State security agency or on suspicion of violating the Law on the Protection of Society and the Law on Combating Terrorism or on the length of time that elapsed before they were charged with an offence. In this connection, the Committee has continued to receive reports of arbitrary detention, prolonged solitary confinement and ill-treatment, as in the cases of Mansoor al-Mansoori, Mohammad Meshab, Abdulrahman bin Omair Rashed al-Jabr al-Nuaimi and Mohammed Rashid Hassan Nasser al-Ajami (arts. 2, 11 and 16).
16. The Committee recalls its previous recommendation (see CAT/C/QAT/CO/2, para. 11) and urges the State party to review without delay its existing national security and counter-terrorism laws with a view to repealing the provisions referred to above in order to bring legislation into conformity with the Convention and other international standards. In particular, the State party should ensure that:
(a) All detainees, including those held under security laws, are informed about the charges against them, have their detention recorded in a register and are brought promptly before a judge;
(b) Detainees taken into custody are permitted to contact family members, lawyers and independent doctors promptly following deprivation of liberty and that the provision of these safeguards by the authorities is monitored effectively;
(c) No one is held in secret detention;
(d) Solitary confinement is only used in exceptional cases as a last resort, for as short a time as possible and subject to independent review, and only pursuant to authorization by a competent authority, in accordance with rules 43 to 46 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules). The State party should also compile and regularly publish comprehensive data on the use of solitary confinement.
17.While taking note of the guarantees set forth in article 232 of the Code of Criminal Procedure regarding the inadmissibility of evidence obtained under duress or threat, the Committee regrets the scant information available on decisions taken by the Qatari courts to refuse confessions obtained under torture as evidence. Of particular concern is the case of Ronaldo Lopez Ulep, a Filipino national convicted on espionage charges, who claimed to have been repeatedly subjected to torture in order to force his confession (arts. 2, 15 and 16).
18. The State party should take effective steps to ensure in practice that confessions obtained under torture or ill-treatment are ruled inadmissible. It should also expand vocational training programmes for both judges and prosecutors so as to ensure their ability to identify torture and ill-treatment and investigate all allegations of such acts. The State party should also provide the Committee with detailed information on any cases in which confessions were deemed inadmissible on the grounds that they were obtained through torture and indicate whether any officials have been prosecuted and punished for extracting such confessions.
Independence of the judiciary
19.While acknowledging the information provided by the delegation, the Committee continues to be concerned about the level of independence of judges in the State party, which remains severely undermined by the Emir’s exclusive authority to appoint judges on the advice of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary, and the lack of security of tenure of both national and foreign judges, who can be dismissed by the Emir “in the public interest”. The Committee takes note of the explanations provided by the delegation regarding the status of foreign judges, who work under a labour contract and whose rights are protected by decree. However, it remains concerned at reports indicating that they are recruited under temporary contracts that have to be renewed annually, which raises questions about their independence, impartiality and irremovability (art. 2).
20. Recalling its previous recommendation (see CAT/C/QAT/CO/2, para. 13), and in the light of the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (see A/HRC/29/26/Add.1, paras. 95–102), the State party should adopt all measures necessary to establish and ensure the independence of the judiciary, including by guaranteeing their tenure in office and severing administrative and other ties with the executive branch, in conformity with international standards, notably the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary (General Assembly resolutions 40/32 and 40/146). The State party should also revise the modalities of the appointment and tenure of foreign judges, to ensure their total independence, autonomy, impartiality and irremovability.
Inspection of detention centres
21.While taking note of the prison monitoring activities carried out by the Office of the Public Prosecutor and the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of the Interior, the Committee regrets that the State party has not provided information on the specific measures taken by prison authorities or prosecutors in response to the recommendations made and complaints of ill-treatment received by representatives of these public bodies. It also regrets the lack of information provided about the action taken by the State party in response to the recommendations issued by the National Human Rights Committee, generated by its monitoring activities (arts. 2, 11 and 16).
22. The State party should:
(a) Ensure effective follow-up of recommendations arising from the monitoring activities at detention centres, including those under the authority of the State security forces, and systematically collect data on the outcome of any complaints of ill-treatment received by monitors, as well as on any investigations undertaken and criminal or disciplinary proceedings resulting from such complaints;
(b) Ensure that the personnel of the National Human Rights Committee are able to access all places of deprivation of liberty, without prior notice or authorization, and ensure that this institution has adequate resources to conduct regular monitoring of all places of detention and follow up on the response of authorities to complaints it brings to their attention;
(c) Ensure that non-governmental organizations have unhindered access to all places of detention through, in particular, unannounced visits and the ability to speak with detainees in private;
(d) Consider ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Prompt, thorough and impartial investigations
23.The Committee notes with concern that, despite its reiterated requests, the State party has not furnished specific information on the number of complaints of torture or ill-treatment or on the corresponding investigations and prosecutions during the reporting period. The Committee has not yet received comprehensive information about the sentences and criminal or disciplinary sanctions imposed on offenders, or an indication of whether the alleged perpetrators of those acts have been removed from public service pending the outcome of the investigation of the complaint (arts. 2, 12, 13 and 16).
24. The Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Ensure that all complaints of torture or ill-treatment are promptly investigated in an impartial manner by an independent body, that there is no institutional or hierarchical relationship between the body ’ s investigators and the suspected perpetrators of such acts, and that the suspected perpetrators are duly tried and, if found guilty, punished in a manner that is commensurate with the gravity of their acts;
(b) Ensure that the authorities launch investigations whenever there are reasonable grounds to believe that an act of torture or ill-treatment has been committed;
(c) Ensure that, in cases of alleged torture and/or ill-treatment, suspected perpetrators are suspended from duty immediately for the duration of the investigation, particularly when there is a risk that they might otherwise be in a position to repeat the alleged act, commit reprisals against the alleged victim or obstruct the investigation;
(d) Compile disaggregated statistical information relevant to the monitoring of the Convention, including data on complaints, investigations, prosecutions and convictions in cases of torture and ill-treatment.
Superior orders as a justification of torture
25.The Committee is concerned by the fact that article 48 of the Criminal Code does not fulfil the obligation set forth in article 2 (3) of the Convention as it excludes the criminal responsibility of public employees executing the order of a superior that they had to obey or thought they had a duty to obey (art. 2 (3)).
26. The State party should consider harmonizing article 48 of the Criminal Code with article 2 (3) of the Convention by ensuring that an order from a superior-ranking officer may not be invoked as justification of torture and, to that end, establish a mechanism for the protection of subordinates who refuse to obey such an order. The State party should also ensure that all law enforcement officers are informed of the prohibition against obeying unlawful orders and made aware of the protective mechanisms put in place.
27.The Committee is concerned that torture and related crimes are not included in the list of offences indicated in the Criminal Code over which courts can exercise universal jurisdiction (art. 5).
28. The State party should take all necessary steps to effectively exercise universal jurisdiction over persons allegedly responsible for acts of torture, including foreign perpetrators who are temporarily present in Qatar.
29.While taking note of the existing training programmes on human rights for police officers, judicial officers and other public officials, the Committee remains concerned by the lack of information on the impact of the training provided. It also regrets the lack of specific training provided to law enforcement officials, judges, prosecutors, forensic doctors and medical personnel dealing with detained persons on how to detect and document physical and psychological sequelae of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (art. 10).
30. The State party should:
(a) Further develop mandatory in-service training programmes to ensure that all public officials, in particular law enforcement officers, military personnel, prison staff and medical personnel employed in prisons, are well acquainted with the provisions of the Convention and are fully aware that violations will not be tolerated and will be investigated and that those responsible will be prosecuted and, upon conviction, be appropriately sanctioned;
(b) Ensure that all law enforcement officers receive mandatory training emphasizing the link between non-coercive interrogation techniques, the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, and the obligation of the judiciary to invalidate confessions under torture;
(c) Ensure that all relevant staff, including medical personnel, are specifically trained to identify cases of torture and ill-treatment, in accordance with the Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Istanbul Protocol);
(d) Develop and apply a methodology for evaluating the effectiveness of education and training programmes relating to the Convention and the Istanbul Protocol.
31.While taking note of the explanation given by the delegation that, although article 1 of the Criminal Code still contains vague provisions authorizing flogging, stoning and other corporal punishment as criminal sanctions, such punishment is not applied in practice, the Committee is concerned that these penalties have not yet been abolished, as recommended in its previous concluding observations (see CAT/C/QAT/CO/2, para. 12). The Committee is also concerned at reports that corporal punishment of children is still permitted in the home, in alternative care and day-care settings and schools (arts. 2, 4 and 16).
32. The State party should:
(a) Legally abolish corporal punishment as a sentence for crime;
(b) Enact legislation to explicitly and clearly prohibit corporal punishment of children in all settings.
33.The Committee notes with concern that death sentences continue to be imposed by Qatari courts and that capital punishment was applied in five cases between 2012 and 2018. It is further concerned about the wide range of offences, including the crime of torture, for which capital punishment is a possible penalty (arts. 2 and 16).
34. The State party should consider establishing an immediate moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty, and commute death sentences to prison sentences. It should also ensure that if the death penalty is imposed it is only for the most serious crimes and in compliance with international norms.
35.While taking note of the State party’s information that 152 minors and 250 adults benefited from rehabilitation measures in 2017, the Committee regrets not having received complete information on the redress and compensation measures ordered by the courts and other State bodies and actually provided to the victims of torture and ill-treatment or their families since the consideration of the previous periodic report (art. 14).
36. The State party should ensure that all victims of torture and ill-treatment obtain redress, including an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation and the means for as full a rehabilitation as possible. The Committee draws the State party ’ s attention to its general comment No. 3 (2012) on the implementation of article 14, in which it elaborates on the nature and scope of the obligations of State s parties under article 14 of the Convention to provide full redress to victims of torture. The State party should also provide the Committee with information on redress and on compensation measures, including the means of rehabilitation, ordered by the courts or other State bodies and actually provided to victims of torture or ill-treatment.
Asylum and non-refoulement
37.While noting the information provided by the delegation, the Committee remains concerned at reports that the State party may have acted in breach of the principle of non-refoulement during the period under review. Of particular concern is the forcible return to Saudi Arabia, on 25 May 2017, of Mohammad al-Otaibi, a Saudi Arabian human rights activist, who was detained at Doha airport while travelling to Norway where he had been granted asylum. The Committee is also concerned about the exclusion from the competence of the courts of decisions issued under the laws on residence and deportation of foreigners, in accordance with the Law on the Settlement of Administrative Disputes (Law No. 7 of 2007, as amended). Lastly, the Committee regrets the limited information provided by the State party on the number of cases in which refoulement, extradition or expulsion were carried out during the reporting period and on the number of instances in which it has not expelled persons in danger of being tortured in the country of return (art. 3).
38. The State party should:
(a) Ensure that no one may be expelled, returned or extradited to another State in which there are substantial grounds to believe that he or she would run a personal and foreseeable risk of being subjected to torture;
(b) Guarantee that all persons on the territory or under the jurisdiction of the State party have effective access to the procedure for determining refugee status;
(c) Ensure that procedural safeguards against refoulement are in place and that effective remedies are available with respect to refoulement claims in removal proceedings, including review by an independent judicial body concerning rejections, in particular on appeal;
(d) Consider ratifying the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Abuse of migrant workers
39.The Committee notes with regret that, despite the information provided in the State party’s report indicating the removal of the kafalah system (sponsorship), the new labour law does not abolish exit permits for migrant workers, including female domestic workers, who still have to obtain their employers’ permission to leave the country, which frequently leads to exploitation and abuse. Moreover, the de facto confiscation of passports by employers and their failure to renew foreign workers’ residence permits and health cards expose them to arrest and detention for unlawful presence in the country. In this regard, the Committee welcomes the agreement signed between Qatar and the International Labour Organization with a view to establishing a technical cooperation programme, within which the Qatari Government has committed to align its laws and practices with international labour standards (art. 16).
40. The State party should:
(a) Adopt the necessary legislative measures to abolish the abusive sponsorship system, in cooperation with the International Labour Organization;
(b) Take measures to ensure that all instances of exploitation and abuse of migrant workers are promptly and impartially investigated.
Detention pending deportation
41.While acknowledging the measures taken by the State party to reduce overcrowding at the Deportation Detention Centre in Doha, the Committee remains concerned about the reports of poor conditions of detention, including inadequate sanitation, insufficient ventilation and shortage of bedding and food. In that connection, the Committee is particularly concerned by the situation of women held in this detention facility, as described by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants (see A/HRC/26/35/Add.1, paras. 55–63) (arts. 11 and 16).
42. The State party should:
(a) Refrain from detaining undocumented migrants for prolonged periods, use detention as a measure of last resort only and for as short a period as possible and promote alternatives to detention;
(b) Ensure that detained foreigners, including undocumented migrants, have the right to contact the consular services of their respective country and are entitled to receive legal aid;
(c) Continue its efforts to improve the conditions of detention and alleviate the overcrowding of deportation detention facilities, including through the application of non-custodial measures. In doing so, the Committee draws the State party ’ s attention to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) and the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules).
43.While taking note of the information provided by the delegation on the State party’s efforts to combat trafficking in persons, the Committee regrets the scant information available on the number of complaints, investigations, prosecutions, convictions and sentences imposed in trafficking cases during the period under review (arts. 2, 12 and 16).
44. Noting the voluntary commitments made by the State party in the context of the universal periodic review of the Human Rights Council in May 2014 (see A/HRC/27/15, paras. 122.47–122.54), the State party should:
(a) Intensify its efforts to prevent and combat trafficking in human beings, including by implementing effectively the Law on Combating Trafficking in Persons (Law No. 15 of 2011), and by providing protection for victims, including shelters and psychosocial assistance;
(b) Ensure that cases of human trafficking are thoroughly investigated, perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with the appropriate sanctions, and the victims are adequately compensated. It should also ensure that victims have access to effective protection;
(c) Ensure the systematic collection of data on trafficking flows to and in transit through the country.
45.While noting certain advances by the State party in raising awareness of and addressing gender-based violence against women, the Committee regrets the reluctance of the State party to criminalize domestic violence, including marital rape. The Committee also regrets the lack of information in the State party’s report on the number of complaints, investigations, prosecutions, convictions and sentences imposed in cases of gender-based violence against women during the period under review (arts. 2 and 16).
46. The State party should:
(a) Define and introduce domestic violence and marital rape as specific offences in its Criminal Code, with appropriate sanctions;
(b) Ensure that all cases of gender-based violence against women are thoroughly investigated, perpetrators are prosecuted and appropriately sanctioned and victims obtain redress, including fair and adequate compensation;
(c) Provide mandatory training on prosecution for gender-based violence to all enforcement and justice officials and continue awareness-raising campaigns on all forms of violence against women;
(d) Ensure that all victims of gender-based violence are able to access shelters and receive the necessary medical care, psychological support and legal assistance.
Human rights defenders and journalists
47.The Committee expresses once again its concern at the lack of information on measures to prevent harassment of human rights defenders and journalists, and prosecute and punish perpetrators (art. 16).
48. Recalling its previous recommendation (see CAT/C/QAT/CO/2, para. 17), the State party should take all the necessary measures to:
(a) Ensure that human rights defenders and journalists are able to conduct their work and activities freely in the State party, without fear of reprisals or attacks;
(b) Investigate promptly, thoroughly and impartially all violations committed against human rights defenders and journalists, prosecute and punish appropriately those found guilty and provide redress to the victims.
49. The Committee requests the State party to provide, by 18 May 2019, information on follow-up to the Committee ’ s recommendations on fundamental legal safeguards; prompt, thorough and impartial investigations; and asylum and non-refoulement (see paras. 14, 24 and 38 above). In that context, the State party is invited to inform the Committee about its plans for implementing, within the coming reporting period, some or all of the remaining recommendations in the concluding observations.
50. The Committee encourages the State party to consider making the declarations envisaged under articles 21 and 22 of the Convention recognizing the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications from individuals subject to its jurisdiction.
51. The State party is invited to submit its common core document, in accordance with requirements contained in the harmonized guidelines on reporting under the international human rights treaties (HRI/GEN/2/Rev.6).
52. The State party is requested to disseminate widely the report submitted to the Committee and the present concluding observations, in appropriate languages, through official websites, the media and non-governmental organizations.
53. The Committee requests the State party to submit its next periodic report, which will be its fourth, by 18 May 2022. For that purpose, and in view of the fact that the State party has agreed to report to the Committee under the simplified reporting procedure, the Committee will, in due course, transmit to the State party a list of issues prior to reporting. The State party ’ s replies to that list of issues will constitute its fourth periodic report under article 19 of the Convention.