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Qatar: EU must do more to end humanitarian tragedy caused by blockade

Qatar's National Human Rights Commission, Ali Bin Smaikh Al-Marri [QatarUNGeneva/Twitter]
Qatar's National Human Rights Commission, Ali Bin Smaikh Al-Marri [QatarUNGeneva/Twitter]

The President of Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) has said the European Union (EU) must do more to end the humanitarian tragedy caused by the ongoing blockade of the country.

Speaking in the Austrian capital Vienna, Ali Bin Smaikh Al-Marri called on EU countries to take stronger measures to put an end to the ongoing humanitarian tragedy caused by the embargo imposed on Qatar 18 months ago.

He pointed out that Austria’s current presidency of the European Union – which rotates between member states every six months – is an opportunity to take a stricter position towards those countries responsible for imposing the blockade, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. “We are confident that Austria […] can contribute more closely […] to persuading the EU countries to make more powerful decisions to pressure the countries of the blockade,” he said.

Al-Marri also stressed that EU countries should not continue to pursue a policy of “negative neutrality” in the face of ongoing violations of the rights of Qatari citizens and residents. This, he argued, goes against the EU’s principles and its commitment to the defence of human rights. He explained:

The countries of the European Union, which have consistently affirmed their commitment to the principle of defending human rights anywhere in the world, cannot carry on the negative neutrality approach when it comes to serious violations of human rights that have violated – and continue to violate – the rights of thousands of citizens and residents of Qatar.

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While in Vienna, Al-Marri held a series of “fruitful” meetings with officials from the Austrian Parliament’s Human Rights Committee. He also met with officials from Austria’s Department for Human Rights and Ethnic Minority Affairs. During a session dealing with the siege – which has been imposed on Qatar since 5 June 2017 – the Al-Marri presented reports by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the NHRC, which document serious violations of Qataris’ human rights and stress the discriminatory measures pursued by those countries imposing the blockade.

Further, these countries continue to disregard the calls of international governments and human rights organisations to end to the siege, he added, citing the UAE’s decision to ignore rulings by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

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To resolve the issue, Al-Marri suggested that EU member states should use their political and economic relations to leverage an end to the blockade. “The countries of the European Union […] should put human rights as a priority on the table in any negotiations or economic and investment partnerships with the embargo states,” Al-Marri stressed, adding: “Human rights should not be marginalized as a secondary issue of any economic or political interest, as confirmed by the founding charters and regulations of the European Union.”

Al-Marri concluded that the forthcoming dialogue between the Qatari government and the European Union on human rights – slated for early next year – should be seen as an important step towards resolving the issue.

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