This isn't very new, but I wanted to get a post on the State Department's Human Rights Report on the record here. The whole thing is here, but below you'll find some noteworthy bits culled from the report that will give a sense of how things operate in Qatar. As you'll see, things seem most difficult in the emirate for foreign workers (of which there are many) who are subject to a sponsorship law that results in "forced labor activities and slavelike conditions."
From the report:
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
There were no reports that government officials employed torture.
Some prisons and detention centers, conditions did not meet international standards.
There were no reports of arbitrary arrest or detention.The law empowers the minister of interior to detain a defendant for crimes related to national security, honor, or impudence.The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but the emir, based on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council, appoints all judges. They hold their positions at his discretion.
The law provides defendants the presumption of innocence; in practice, those charged with a crime carry the burden of disproving at trial the charge against them.Although there are no separate Shari'a courts, the application of Shari'a denied women equal status in certain civil proceedings.
The judiciary is not impartial and independent in practice, and judgments tend to favor citizens.
The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press in accordance with the law, but the government limited these rights in practice.
Journalists and publishers continued to self-censor due to political and economic pressures when reporting on government policies or material deemed hostile to Islam, the ruling family, and relations with neighboring states
Although the seven daily newspapers are not state owned, owners are members of the ruling family or have close ties to government officials.
Al Jazeera and the government claimed that the channel was independent and free of government influence, but the government exercised editorial and programmatic control of the channel through funding and selection of the station's management.
The government restricted the peaceful expression of views via the Internet and censored the Internet for political, religious, and pornographic content through a proxy server, which monitored and blocked Web sites, e-mail, and chat rooms through the state-owned Internet service provider.
Adherents of other faiths may privately practice their religion without harassment.
Criminal law provides for prison terms of up to 10 years for individuals proselytizing for any religion other than Islam on behalf of an organization, society, or foundation.
Converting to another religion from Islam is technically a capital offense, but there were no executions or other punishments handed down or carried out for such an act during the year.
Christmas decorations were on display in many public places, including shopping malls and in the common areas of housing compounds. Such decorations were available for sale at stores throughout Doha.
In a January 9 sermon on Al-Jazeera, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi called for killing Jews "down to the very last one."
The government severely restricted in-country movement and foreign travel for noncitizens.Unlike previous years, local shopping malls did not prevent groups of foreign workers from entering entertainment areas in Doha on weekends and during certain periods designated as "family times."
The government occasionally revoked citizenship or passports for political reasons, thereby restricting freedom of movement.
According to the UNHCR, there were approximately 1,500 Bidoons (stateless Arabs with residency ties) in the country. They suffered discrimination based upon their lack of nationality. They were unable to register for such services as education and health care.
The constitution does not provide citizens the right to peacefully change their government through elections.
The influence of family and tribal traditions was strong, and the government did not permit political parties or opposition groups.
Nearly 50 percent of the fewer than 50,000 eligible voters participated.Approximately 75 percent of citizens could not vote in the 2007 municipal elections, as this right was limited to families who were in the country prior to 1930.The law forbids formation of and membership in political parties.
During the year local newspapers reported that a number of senior officials in various ministries had been dismissed for using their offices for personal gain but offered no details.
No international NGO or international organization focusing on human rights or humanitarian issues was resident in the country, with the exception of a major Western labor organization, which in March placed a representative in Doha to work on labor rights issues.Although the influence of traditional attitudes and roles continued to limit women's participation in politics, women served in public office as president of the Permanent Election Committee, head of the General Authority for Health, vice president of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA) with ministerial rank, head of the General Authority for Museums, and president of Qatar University.In practice, custom heavily influenced government enforcement of nondiscrimination laws, and legal, cultural, and institutional discrimination existed against women, noncitizens, and foreign workers.The legal system allows leniency for a man found guilty of committing a so-called "honor" crime against a woman for perceived immodesty or deviant behavior. There were no reports of honor crimes during the year.
In cases involving financial transactions, the testimony of two women equals that of one man, but courts routinely evaluated evidence according to the overall credibility of the witness and the testimony being offered, and not on the basis of gender.The government provides for the welfare of citizen children, but not noncitizen children. The government funds free public education (elementary through university) and health care for citizensProvisions of the Sponsorship Law create conditions that can lead to forced labor activities and slave-like conditions.
The country was a transit and destination country for men and women trafficked for the purposes of involuntary servitude and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation
Men and women from Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East travel to the country as laborers and domestic servants but often subsequently face conditions of forced labor and physical and sexual exploitation.
Most victims traveled legally to the country by means of recruiting agencies in their home countries but faced conditions of forced labor and trafficking after they reached the country.Some workers were recruited for jobs in the country but then were abandoned by their recruiters upon arrival or by employers after the work was completed, making them even more vulnerable to trafficking.During the year no antitrafficking or related cases against employers or labor recruitment agencies were prosecuted, and there was no indication that the government assisted with international investigations or that it extradited citizens who were accused of trafficking in other countries.Although there was no evidence of institutional involvement by government bodies or officials, some officials may own or operate companies that subject their employees to forced labor conditions.
Noncitizens were required to pay for health care, electricity, water, and education (services provided without charge to citizens).
The law prohibits same-sex relations between men but is silent concerning same-sex relations between women.Under the criminal law, a man convicted of having sexual relations with another man or boy younger than 16 is subject to a sentence of life in prison. A man convicted of having sexual relations with another man older than 16 is subject to a sentence of seven years in prison under section 285 of the criminal law.
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. However, there were reports that such practices occurred. Foreign workers in many cases worked under circumstances that constituted forced labor. These conditions were found primarily in the construction and domestic labor sectors.
There is no minimum wage stipulated by law. The average wage of noncitizen workers did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family.Government offices and major private sector companies adhered to this law; it was often not observed with respect to unskilled laborers and domestic and personal employees, the majority of whom were foreigners. Many such workers frequently worked seven days a week and more than 12 hours a day with few or no holidays, no overtime pay, and no effective means to redress grievances.The rights of noncitizen workers continued to be severely restricted. Some employers mistreated foreign domestic servants, predominantly those from South Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, by withholding wages or paying wages late. Some cases involved rape and physical abuse.
Another foreign embassy received between 50 and 60 complaints a day, including sexual harassment, delay and nonpayment of salaries, forced labor, contract switching, withholding of passports, poor accommodations, nonrepatriation, termination and deportation without cause, physical torture or torment, overwork, imprisonment, and mistreatment.
Diplomatic representatives visited labor camps and found most unskilled foreign laborers living in cramped, dirty, and hazardous conditions, often without running water, electricity, or adequate food.