Target: His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar
Goal: Ensure fair trials and due process in Qatar by guaranteeing an independent judiciary
The Supreme Judicial Council of Qatar was constitutionally designed to be a self-governing and independent branch of government, to support fair trials uncorrupted by other powers in the country. However, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers has shown that, in practice, the judiciary in Qatar is heavily influenced by the executive branch, especially when “high-level persons or businesses” are involved.
Separation of powers is essential to ensuring trials are fair and unbiased. While it is admirable that Qatar’s government has structured the judiciary to be self-governing, the appearance is irrelevant to the pragmatic question of whether justice is served.
What is perhaps more troubling is official discrimination towards migrant workers and other non-Qataris within the justice system. Frequently non-Qataris are deprived of their right to a fair trial and due process. The report of the Special Rapporteur was primarily focused on cases in which non-Arabic speakers were tried and sometimes forced to sign admissions of guilt without translation or interpretation being provided to them. To be convicted without knowing why and without being able to defend yourself is a definitive violation of due process and the right to a fair trial.
An additional violation of due process persists in a lack of public information and judicial transparency. As a result, non-Qataris and Qataris alike are unsure of their rights and how to defend themselves from unfair judicial investigations.
To address these concerns, the government of Qatar, headed by the Emir, should immediately investigate violations of due process and fair trial against non-Qataris. To ensure citizens and noncitizens know their rights the Emir should institute the recording and publicizing of trials and court hearings. Sign this petition to urge the Emir to make these judicial reforms and to end all outside interference in court proceedings.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers reported that Qatar’s courts are in need of reform. She cited multiple cases in which migrant workers and non-Qataris were the victims of discriminatory practices. By failing to provide translation or interpretation to non-Arabic speaking defendants, the courts violated these individuals’ rights to due process and fair trial. These allegations must be investigated immediately and any deprival of due process must be redressed.
In addition, there is a lack of transparency about court proceedings that prevents Qataris and non-Qataris from knowing their rights and properly defending themselves. I urge you to begin using modern technology to begin recording and publicizing court proceedings so that citizens and noncitizens may educate themselves.
Lastly, there are claims of influence from the executive branch in certain high-profile cases. The independence of the court in form means nothing if, in practice, there is no separation of powers. It is crucial that you ensure the independence of court proceedings from outside influence in the future.
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Photo Credit: GSDPqatar via Wikimedia Commons