The National Human Rights Committee
- Since the Accession of his Highness the Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, there has been an increased emphasis on liberalizing Qatar, in order to facilitate its social, cultural and economic development.
- This is most evident in the support provided to the satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera by the State of Qatar, but it is also evident in various conferences and institutions established by the State for the purpose of discussing and dealing with the concerns of the average citizen – ranging from the Council for Family Affairs to the Qatar Foundation. The National Human Rights Committee is part of this network of organizations, created to secure and support the future development of Qatar.
- The NHRC itself was established on 11th November 2002, on the basis of Emiri Decree No. 38 of 2002. It is bound by the Paris Principles – a set of guidelines set by the United Nations for National Human Rights Organizations.
- The NHRC is not affiliated to the United Nations or any other International Bodies. It is independent – and it needs to be independent to properly conduct its tasks. Without such independence, a human rights organization degenerates into the tool of some vested interest or the other. This point cannot be stressed enough.
- The Chairman of the Committee is Dr. Khalid al-Attiya and the General Secretary of the Committee is Dr. Ali bin Semikhal-Marri.
The Committee has Seven Main Objectives:
- To uphold and promote the human rights in the International Treaties which the State of Qatar has acceded to, (such as the Convention Against Torture, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ILO Conventions 100, 105, 182, etc…)
- To provide advice to the Qatari government and other interested parties on human rights.
- To receive, record and investigate violations of human rights in Qatar or involving Qatari citizens, and to either solve these problems or to direct the victims to channels which can solve them. In addition, it is to recommend means by which these violations can be avoided in the future.
- To monitor the records and reports by international organizations and NGOs on the human rights situation in Qatar and to respond if necessary.
- To prepare annual reports on the human rights situation in Qatar.
To work with regional and international human rights organizations – and also with other national human rights committees in the region, (such as the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights or the Saudi National Human Rights Association.)
- To raise awareness of human rights in society, and among the relevant government agencies – through presentations, conferences, training programs and media campaigns.
In practice, we would need a staff ten times larger, and a budget twenty times higher to fulfil all these objectives. Nonetheless, we aim to do the most we can with what little we have.
So what does the Committee actually do? Our main tasks are as follows:
- We have a Legal Department, which is in charge with receiving and recording complaints, and with helping individuals solve their problems, or at least mitigate them. This department either directs people to the organizations which deal with their concerns, (such as the Labour Department or the Courts), or contacts the relevant ministries in an attempt to correct various errors.
- We have a Public Relations and Media Department which is in charge of organizing conferences, presentations, and other meetings, as well as dealing with the media and answering any queries concerning the committee.
- We have a Social Research Unit, which is in charge with studying developments in Qatar, and producing the annual report.And of course, we have an Administration Department which is charged with managing our finances and ensuring that everybody works properly.
In addition, there are a number of additional activities that the Committee undertakes:
The Committee regularly visits the Detention Centres and Prisons in Qatar, to ensure that they are being properly maintained.
- The Committee, as previously noted, has training programs for police and other officials – in order to help ensure that abuses are avoided.
- The Committee often provides legal advice regarding such matters as the sponsorship law or the labour law.
- The Committee occasionally does favours for other government organizations, (such as the Qatar Foundation) – because such actions create goodwill, without which no human rights group can survive for long.
- The Committee relies on a grant from the government for its finances – a grant which is established by law, and therefore, not vulnerable to fluctuations in the whims of the authorities. This is necessary in order to maintain our independence. As of now, we do not conduct fund-raising activities, and we do not charge for any services we provide.
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