Report on Human Rights Practices for 2000
Qatar, an Arab state on the Persian Gulf, is a monarchy
with no constitution or political parties. Qatar is governed by the
ruling Al-Thani family through its head, the Amir. The current Amir,
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, took power from his father in June 1995
with the support of leading branches of the Al-Thani family, and in
consultation with other leading Qatari families. This transition of
authority did not represent a change in the basic governing order.
The Amir holds absolute power, the exercise of which is influenced by
religious law, consultation with leading citizens, rule by consensus, and
the right of any citizen to gain access to the Amir to appeal government
decisions. The Amir generally legislates after consultation with
leading citizens, an arrangement institutionalized in an appointed advisory
council that assists the Amir in formulating policy. In 1999 the Amir
convened a constitutional committee to draft a permanent constitution that
would provide for parliamentary elections. The committee has met
regularly and is projected to complete its recommendations by 2002.
In March 1999, citizens were permitted to participate in the election of a
national body, the Central Municipal Council, for the first time. The
judiciary is nominally independent, but most judges hold their positions at
the Government's pleasure.
The country has efficient police and security services.
The civilian security force, controlled by the Interior Ministry, comprises
two sections: The police and the General Administration of Public
Security and the investigatory police (Mubahathat), which is responsible
for sedition and espionage cases. The Interior Ministry has a special
state security investigative unit (Mubahith) that performs internal
security investigations and gathers intelligence. In addition, there
is an independent civilian intelligence service (Mukhabarat). There
were one or two allegations that members of the security forces tortured
civilians in detention.
The State owns most basic industries and services, but
the retail and construction industries are in private hands. Oil is
the principal natural resource, but the country's extensive natural gas
resources are playing an increasingly important role. Rapid
development in the 1970's and 1980's created an economy in which foreign
workers, mostly South Asian and Arab, outnumber citizens by a ratio of 4 or
5 to 1. The Government has embarked on a program of "Qatarization,"
which is aimed at reducing the number of foreign workers. Many
government jobs are offered only to citizens and private sector businesses
are encouraged to recruit citizens as well.
The Government generally respected its citizens' human rights in many
areas, and there were improvements in freedom of expression; however, its
record was poor in areas, such as citizens' right to change the Government.
Citizens do not have the right to change their government. There were
one or two allegations that members of the security forces tortured
civilians in detention during the year. Arbitrary detention in
security cases, and restrictions on the freedoms of speech, press,
assembly, association, religion, and on workers' rights, continued to be
problems. However, the Government continued to take some steps to
ease restrictions on the practice of non-Muslim religions. Despite
female suffrage, in practice women's rights are restricted by social
customs. Domestic servants are mistreated and sometimes abused.
Noncitizens, who make up the majority of the residents of the country, face
discrimination in the workplace.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person,
Including Freedom From:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political or other
There were no reports of politically motivated
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment
The Government officially proscribes torture; however,
there were one or two reports of alleged torture. There were
unconfirmed allegations in previous years that some of the defendants in
the trial of the 1996 coup plotters (see Sections 1.d. and 1.e.) had been
tortured while in police custody; government officials have denied the
allegations. The Government administers most corporal punishment
prescribed by Islamic law but does not allow amputation.
Prison conditions generally meet minimum international
The Government does not permit domestic human rights
groups to exist, and no international human rights organization has asked
to visit the country or its prisons.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest; however, the police
have the discretion to arrest persons based on a low level of suspicion,
and arbitrary detention in security cases remains a problem. The
authorities generally charge suspects within 48 hours. Suspects
generally are presented to the Attorney General within 24 hours of arrest.
The Attorney General decides whether to hold the suspect up to a maximum of
4 days, after which time the suspect is presented before a judge, who may
order the suspect released or remanded to custody to await trial. The
accused is entitled to legal representation throughout this process.
Suspects who are detained in security cases generally are afforded access
to counsel; however, they may be detained indefinitely while under
investigation. There were no known cases of incommunicado detention
during the year.
In 1998 Ministry of Education official Abdulrahman Al-Nuaimi
distributed a letter criticizing the Amir's decision to allow women to vote
and run for office in the Municipal Council elections as well as other
purportedly anti-Islamic actions. The Amir ordered the arrest of
Abdulrahman Al-Nuaimi, and he remains in detention.
In September 33 of the persons arrested and tried for
involvement in a February 1996 coup attempt, including Sheikh Hamad Bin
Jassim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, who was named as the prime suspect in the coup
bid, were found guilty and sentence to life in prison; 85 were acquitted.
The 33 found guilty have appealed. Prosecutors had called for the
death penalty for all those accused.
The Government has used forced exile on rare occasions.
There were no reported cases this year.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The judiciary is nominally independent; however, most
judges are foreign nationals who hold residence permits granted by the
civil authorities, and thus hold their positions at the Government's
pleasure. The number of citizen judges is increasing.
The judiciary deals with the bureaucracies of three
ministries. Civil (or Adlea) courts are subordinate to the Ministry
of Justice, and Shari'a (Islamic law) courts fall under the Ministry of
Endowments and Islamic Affairs. The prosecutors fall under the
Ministry of Interior.
There are two types of courts: The civil courts,
which have jurisdiction in civil and commercial matters, and the Shari'a
courts, which have jurisdiction in family and criminal cases. There
are no permanent state security courts; however, although there have been
no cases before these courts since the Amir assumed power, they have not
been abolished formally by law and remain an option. Defendants tried
by all courts have the right to appeal. The original case and the
appeal in Shari'a courts are no longer heard by the same judge, and
procedural loopholes that permitted this practice in the past are to be
closed as part of a pending judicial reform package.
The legal system is biased in favor of citizens and the
Government. A Muslim litigant may request the Shari'a courts to
assume jurisdiction in commercial or civil cases. Non-Muslims are not
allowed to bring suits as plaintiffs in the Shari'a courts; however, they
may file suit in the civil courts. This practice prevents non-Muslim
residents from obtaining full legal recourse. Trials in the civil
courts are public, but in the Shari'a courts only the disputing parties,
their relatives, associates, and witnesses are allowed in the courtroom.
Lawyers do not play a formal role except to prepare litigants for their
cases. Although non-Arabic speakers are provided with interpreters,
foreigners are disadvantaged, especially in cases involving the performance
of contracts. However, provided that the foreign defendant's sponsor
or embassy agree, the defendant is entitled to legal representation
throughout the trial and pretrial process.
Defendants appear before a judge for a preliminary
hearing within 7 days of their arrest. Judges may extend pretrial
detention for 1 week at a time to allow the authorities to conduct
investigations. Lengthy pretrial detention is not known to occur.
Defendants in the civil courts have the right to be represented by defense
attorneys but are not always permitted to be represented by counsel in the
Shari'a trials usually are brief. Shari'a family
law trials often are held without counsel. After both parties have
stated their cases and examined witnesses, judges usually deliver a verdict
after a short deliberation. Criminal cases normally are tried within
2 to 3 months after suspects are detained. Suspects are entitled to
bail, except in some instances, such as in cases of violent crime.
Bail may be provided by citizens or noncitizens. Foreigners who are
charged with minor crimes may be released to a citizen sponsor. They
are prohibited from departing the country until the case is resolved.
After a public trial of persons arrested for involvement
in the 1996 coup attempt, trial judges sentenced 33 defendants to life
imprisonment. Nine of them were tried in absentia. Another 85
defendants were acquitted on all charges. A decision regarding the
convicted defendants' appeal was pending at year's end. The trial was
There are no known political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family,
Home, or Correspondence
Traditional attitudes of respect for the sanctity of the
home and the privacy of women provide a great deal of protection against
arbitrary intrusion for most citizens and residents. A warrant must
be obtained before police may search a residence or business, except in
cases involving national security or emergencies. Search warrants are
issued by judicial authorities. There were no reports of unauthorized
searches of homes during the year. The police and security forces are
believed to monitor the telephone calls of suspected criminals, of those
considered to be security risks, and of selected foreigners.
With prior permission, which is usually granted,
citizens may marry foreigners of any nationality and apply for residence
permits or citizenship for their spouses.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Although the Government reduced restrictions on freedom
of speech and of the press in 1996 and permitted a noticeable expansion of
press freedom, some restrictions still remain. The Government lifted
formal censorship of the media in 1995, and since then the press has been
essentially free of government interference. However, journalists
continue to practice self-censorship, due to real or perceived social and
political pressures. Some journalists reportedly were subjected to
pressure by the Government during the year after they published articles
critical of the Government. Although explicit criticism of citizens'
public or private affairs is not common, a number of such reports have been
noted in local newspapers, especially Arabic-language newspapers. One
Arabic-language newspaper even polled its readers to determine the most
popular and least popular ministers. The Minister of Education was a
frequent target of criticism; other criticism tended to be targeted at
organizations rather than individuals.
There were no reports of instances of political
censorship of foreign news media or broadcasts of foreign programs on local
television over the past year. The Censorship Office in the Ministry
of Information was abolished (together with the Ministry) in 1996.
Pornography and expressions deemed hostile to Islam still are subject to
censorship, and censors still work at broadcast media under the overall
supervision of the Ministry of Religious Endowments.
Citizens enjoy broad freedom of speech but are
restricted by the social and family restraints of a very traditional
society. There is no apparent fear of government monitoring of
private speech. However, the larger foreign population does not
believe it enjoys the same freedoms and acts accordingly.
Television and radio are state owned, but the privately
owned satellite television channel Al-Jazeera operates freely. During
the year, radio and television call-in programs and talk shows criticized
the Amir for meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister at the U.N. Millennium
Summit in September, and the Government was criticized for allowing the
Israeli Trade Office to remain open prior to the November Islamic Summit.
Various government ministers are regularly criticized on a popular radio
A Ministry of Education official who wrote a letter in
1999 critical of the Amir's decision to allow women to vote and run for
office in the Municipal Council elections remains in custody (see Section
Customs officials screen imported print media,
videocassettes, and other such items for pornography, but have stopped
blocking the importation of non-Muslim religious items (see Section 2.c.).
A growing number of citizens and residents have access
to the Internet, which is provided through the state-owned
telecommunications monopoly. Internet service is censored for
pornographic content through a proxy server, which blocks those web sites
containing certain key words and phrases. A user who believes that a
site is censored mistakenly may submit the web address to the Internet
service provider to have the site reviewed for suitability. The
Government is responsive to such submissions.
There is no legal provision for academic freedom.
Most instructors at the University of Qatar exercise self-censorship.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and
The Government severely limits freedom of assembly.
The Government generally does not allow political demonstrations; however,
it permitted one peaceful demonstration of about 3,000 participants in
October, under the aegis of the Central Municipal Council, that protested
the Israeli Government's actions against Palestinians in Israel, the West
Bank, and Gaza.
The Government severely limits freedom of association. The Government
does not allow political parties or membership in international
professional organizations critical of the Government or of any other Arab
government. Private social, sports, trade, professional, and cultural
societies must be registered with the Government. Security forces
monitor the activities of such groups.
c. Freedom of Religion
There is no constitutional protection for freedom of
religion. The state religion is Islam, as interpreted by the
conservative Wahhabi order of the Sunni branch. The Government
officially prohibits public worship by non-Muslims; however, it tolerates
and protects services conducted privately with prior notification to the
authorities. The Government allows Shi'a Muslims to practice their
faith freely; however, community leaders have agreed to refrain from
certain public practices, such as self-flagellation.
The Government and ruling family are inextricably linked
to the practice of Islam. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs controls
the construction of mosques, the administration of clerical affairs, and
instruction in the Koran. The Minister of Islamic Affairs is a member
of the Emir's cabinet and participates in policymaking at the highest
level. The only official government holidays aside from the
independence day are the Eid Al-Fitr, following the holy month of Ramadan,
and the Eid Al-Adha, which commemorates the end of the Hajj. The Emir
participates in widely publicized "Eid prayers" and each year
personally finances the Hajj pilgrimages of many who cannot afford to
travel to Mecca.
During the year, the Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox
churches in effect received de facto official recognition. However,
formal recognition apparently has not yet been granted. There
reportedly is a verbal commitment by the Government to allow the churches
to operate openly in a manner that apparently reflects de facto government
recognition. For example, priests of the three churches have been
asked to wear their clerical garb and may apply to be sponsors for visitor
visas for other church representatives. In addition, church
representatives may import reasonable amounts of Bibles and other religious
literature for use by their congregations. In February the Government
identified a parcel of land on which it plans to allow the construction of
three churches, one each for the Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox
communities. Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture met with diplomats and
representatives of the churches to discuss initial design plans. The
Government recognizes and allows marriages between non-Muslims to be
conducted by the Roman Catholic Church. Such progress for Christians
is due, in large part, to their status as "people of the book" in
that the Koran accords special status to Christians and Jews. The
Government intends to permit Hindus and Buddhists neither to worship openly
nor to establish temples because it claims that there is no Koranic
justification for tolerance of polytheistic religions.
Non-Muslims may not proselytize, and conversion from
Islam is theoretically a capital offense. However, there is no record
of an execution for such a conversion since independence in 1971.
The Government formally prohibits the publication,
importation, and distribution of Bibles and other non-Islamic religious
literature. However, in practice individuals generally are not
prevented from importing Bibles and other religious items for personal use.
In previous years, there were sporadic reports of confiscation of such
materials by customs officials. During the year, some Christian
worship groups reported having no trouble importing instructional materials
(i.e., Sunday school materials and devotionals) for use by the groups.
Police provide traffic control for authorized Catholic masses, which may be
attended by 1,000 or more persons at Easter and Christmas.
There are no restrictions on non-Muslims providing
religious instruction to their children; however, the public schools
provide compulsory instruction in Islam. The public schools generally
are closed to foreigners, most of whose children attend private schools.
Practice of Islam confers advantage in civil life.
For example, non-Muslims do not have the right to bring suit in the Shari'a
(Islamic law) courts. These courts are utilized to settle the
majority of civil claims; thus, non-Muslims are at a distinct disadvantage.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
There are no restrictions on internal travel, except
around sensitive military and oil installations. In general, women do
not require permission from male guardians to travel. However, men
may prevent female relatives from leaving the country by providing their
names to immigration officers at ports of departure. Technically,
women employed by the Government must obtain official permission to travel
abroad when requesting leave, but it is not known to what extent this
regulation is enforced. Citizens critical of the Government face
restrictions on their right to travel abroad.
All citizens have the right to return. Foreigners are subject to
immigration restrictions designed to control the size of the local labor
pool. Foreign workers must have the permission of their sponsor
(usually their employer) to enter and depart the country, but their
dependents may leave the country without restriction. Foreign women
who are married to citizens are granted residence permits and may apply for
citizenship; however, they are expected to relinquish their foreign
The Government has not formulated a formal policy
regarding refugees, asylees, or first asylum. Those attempting to
enter illegally, including persons seeking asylum from nearby countries,
are refused entry. Asylum seekers who are able to obtain local
sponsorship or employment are allowed to enter and may remain as long as
they are employed.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The
Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Citizens do not have the right to change their
government or the political system peacefully. The political
institutions combine the characteristics of a traditional Bedouin tribal
state and a modern bureaucracy. Under the amended Provisional
Constitution, the Amir must be chosen from and by the adult males of the
Al-Thani family. There are no political parties or organized
opposition groups. However, in 1999 citizens had the opportunity for
the first time to choose officials for the Central Municipal Council in
free and fair elections.
The Amir exercises most executive and legislative
powers, including appointment of cabinet members. On March 8, 1999,
citizens elected a 29-member Central Municipal Council. For the first
time, men and women age 18 and older were permitted both to vote and to run
as candidates. The Council is a nonpartisan body that addresses
issues such as street repair, green space, trash collection, and public
works projects. Its role is to advise the Minister of Municipalities
and Agriculture. The Council cannot change policy on its own.
In November 1998, the Amir announced his intention to
form a constitutional committee to draft a permanent constitution that
would provide for democratic parliamentary elections. The
constitutional committee was inaugurated in July 1999 and includes a number
of government officials, academics, and prominent business leaders.
In addition to subcommittees on the legislature, executive, and judiciary,
it includes a subcommittee on human rights. The committee has met
regularly and is projected to complete its recommendations by 2002.
The Amir reiterated in his remarks to the committee members that he expects
their efforts to lead to the establishment of an elected parliamentary
Women are underrepresented in government and politics.
Women have the right to vote and run as candidates for the Central
Municipal Council; none were elected to the Council in the 1999 elections.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding
International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of
The Government does not permit local human rights
organizations to exist. No international human rights organizations
are known to have asked to investigate conditions in the country.
However, Amnesty International and foreign embassies were invited to send
observers to sessions of the public trial of those accused in the 1996 coup
attempt. Foreign observers attended the trial sessions held during
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex,
Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The law proscribes discrimination in the workplace;
however, institutional, cultural, and legal discrimination based on gender,
race, religion, social status, and disability exists.
According to the Family Development Center, the
country's leading nongovernmental organization (NGO) on women's issues,
violence against women is not widespread. Some foreign domestic
servants, especially those from South Asia and the Philippines, have been
mistreated by employers. In most cases, the mistreatment involves
late or nonpayment of wages (see Section 6.c.), but also includes
allegations of rape and physical abuse (see Section 6.e.). Foreign
embassies provide shelter for maids who have left their employers as a
result of abuse or disputes. According to Shari'a, all forms of
physical abuse are illegal. The maximum penalty for rape is death.
The police actively investigate reports of violence against women. In
the last few years, the Government demonstrated an increased willingness to
arrest and punish offenders, whether citizens or foreigners.
Offenders who are citizens usually receive lighter punishments than do
foreigners. Abused domestic workers usually do not press charges for
fear of losing their jobs.
The legal system allows leniency for a man found guilty
of committing a "crime of honor," a euphemism that refers to a
violent assault against a woman for perceived immodesty or defiant
behavior; however, such honor killings are rare. In 1999 a former
minister and Gulf War hero, Ali Saeed Al-Khayareen, was accused of killing
his two half-sisters for their alleged sexual misconduct. Al-Khayareen
was held for a few months at the Al-Rayyan detention center, but eventually
the women's family decided to accept monetary compensation, and he was
released late in 1999.
The activities of women are restricted closely both by
law and tradition. For example, a woman is prohibited from applying
for a driver's license unless she has permission from a male guardian.
This restriction does not apply to noncitizen women. The Government
adheres to Shari'a as practiced in the country in matters of inheritance
and child custody. Muslim wives have the right to inherit from their
husbands. However, they inherit only one-half as much as male
relatives. Non-Muslim wives inherit nothing, unless a special
exception is arranged. In cases of divorce, Shari'a is followed;
younger children remain with the mother and older children with the father.
Both parents retain permanent rights of visitation. However, local
authorities do not allow a noncitizen parent to take his or her child out
of the country without permission of the citizen parent. Women may
attend court proceedings but generally are represented by a male relative;
however, women may represent themselves. According to Shari'a, the
testimony of two women equals that of one man, but the courts routinely
interpret this on a case-by-case basis.
Women largely are relegated to the roles of mother and
homemaker, but some women are now finding jobs in education, medicine, and
the news media. Women appear to receive equal pay for equal work;
however, they often do not receive equal allowances. These allowances
generally cover transportation and housing costs. Increasingly, women
receive government scholarships to pursue degrees at universities overseas.
The Amir has entrusted his second wife, who is the mother of the Heir
Apparent, with the high-profile task of establishing a university in Doha.
In 1996 the Government appointed its first female undersecretary, in the
Ministry of Education, and in March a woman was appointed vice president of
Qatar University. Although women legally are able to travel abroad
alone (see Section 2.d.), tradition and social pressures cause most to
travel with male escorts. There also have been complaints that
citizen husbands take their foreign spouses' passports and, without prior
approval, turn them in for Qatari citizenship documents. The husbands
then inform their wives that the wives have lost their former citizenship.
In other cases, foreign wives report being forbidden by their husbands or
in-laws to visit or to contact foreign embassies.
There is no independent women's rights organization, nor
has the Government permitted the establishment of one.
The Government demonstrates its commitment to children's
rights through a well-funded, free public education system (elementary
through university) and a complete medical protection program for the
children of citizens. However, children of most foreigners are denied
free education and have only limited medical coverage.
Very young children, usually of African or South Asian
background, have been used as jockeys in camel races. Little
information is available on wages and working conditions for these children
(see Sections 6.c. and 6.d.).
There is no societal pattern of abuse of children.
People with Disabilities
The Government has not enacted legislation or otherwise
mandated provision of accessibility for the disabled, who also face social
discrimination. The Government maintains a hospital and schools that
provide high-quality, free services to the mentally and physically
Shi'a Muslims fill many positions in the bureaucracy and
are prominent in business. However, they experience discrimination in
employment in some sensitive areas, such as security.
The Government discriminates against some citizens of
non-Qatari origin. In the private sector, many citizens of Iranian
origin occupy some of the highest positions. However, they rarely are
found in senior decisionmaking positions in government.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The right of association is limited strictly, and all
workers, including foreigners, are prohibited from forming labor unions.
Despite this restriction, almost all workers have the right to strike after
their case has been presented to the Labor Conciliation Board and ruled
upon. Employers may close a place of work or dismiss employees once
the Conciliation Board has heard the case. The right to strike does
not exist for government employees, domestic workers, or members of the
employer's family. No worker in a public utility or health or
security service may strike if such a strike would harm the public or lead
to property damage. Strikes by expatriate workers are rare but do
occur. The Conciliation Board is widely perceived to be objective,
particularly with regard to the most common complaints of expatriate
workers, the nonpayment of wages, and poor living conditions. The
press reports work actions and grievances over these issues.
The Labor Law provides for the establishment of joint
consultative committees composed of representatives of the employer and
workers. The committees do not discuss wages but may consider issues
such as organization and productivity, conditions of employment, training
of workers, and safety measures and their implementation.
Since 1995 the country has been suspended from the U.S.
Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) insurance programs because
of the Government's lack of compliance with internationally recognized
worker rights standards.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain
Workers are prohibited from engaging in collective
bargaining. In general wages are set unilaterally by employers
without government involvement. Local courts handle disputes between
workers and employers.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor.
Three-quarters of the work force are foreign workers, who are dependent on
a single employer for residency rights. This leaves them vulnerable
to abuse. For instance, employers must give consent before exit
permits are issued to any foreign employee seeking to leave the country.
Some employers temporarily withhold this consent to force foreign employees
to work for longer periods than they wish. Some unskilled workers and
domestic servants are vulnerable to late payment of wages; it is government
policy to assist laborers, usually through the Labor Board, under such
circumstances. The Government prohibits forced and bonded labor by
children and generally enforces this prohibition effectively; however, some
very young children work as jockeys in camel races (see Sections 5 and
6.d., 6.e., and 6.f.).
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age
Minors between the ages of 15 and 18 may be employed
with the approval of their parents or guardians and some children may work
in small, family-owned businesses. However, child labor is rare.
Education is compulsory for citizens through the age of 15. Very
young children, usually of African or South Asian background, are used as
jockeys in camel races (see Sections 5, 6.c., and 6.f.). Little
information is available on wages and working conditions for these
children. The Government prohibits forced and bonded labor by
children and generally enforces this prohibition effectively with respect
to citizen children (see Section 6.c.).
Minors may not work more than 6 hours a day or more than
36 hours a week. Employers must provide the Ministry of Labor with
the names and occupations of their minor employees. The Ministry may
prohibit the employment of minors in jobs that are judged dangerous to the
health, safety, or morals of minors. Employers also must obtain
permission from the Ministry of Education to hire a minor.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There is no minimum wage, although a 1962 law gives the
Amir authority to set one. The average wage provides a decent
standard of living for workers and their families. The law prescribes
a 48-hour workweek with a 24-hour rest period, although most government
offices follow a 36-hours-per-week work schedule. Employees who work
more than 48 hours per week, or 36 hours per week during the Muslim month
of Ramadan, are entitled to overtime pay. This law is adhered to in
government offices and major private sector companies. It is not
observed with respect to domestic and personal employees. Domestic
servants frequently work 7 days per week, and more than 12 hours per day
with few or no holidays, and have no effective way to redress grievances
against their employers.
The Government has enacted regulations concerning worker
safety and health, but enforcement, which is the responsibility of the
Ministry of Energy and Industry, is lax. The Department of Public
Safety oversees safety training and conditions, and the state-run petroleum
company has its own set of safety standards and procedures. The Labor
Law of 1964, as amended in 1984, lists partial and permanent disabilities
for which compensation may be awarded, some connected with handling
chemicals and petroleum products or construction injuries. The law
does not specifically set rates of payment and compensation. Laborers
who suffer work-related sickness or injuries receive free medical treatment
provided by the Government.
Foreign workers may enter the country on a visitors visa
and then convert this visa to a work visa once in the country. A
sponsor is need to convert a visitor's visa to a work visa, and the worker
must have their sponsor's permission to depart the country. Any
worker may seek legal relief from onerous work conditions, but domestic
servants generally accept their situations in order to avoid repatriation.
The Government also penalizes citizen employers who violate residence and
sponsorship laws. Some foreign domestic servants have been mistreated
by their employers. Such mistreatment normally involves the
nonpayment or late payment of wages but also may involve rape and physical
abuse (see Section 5). It is not known if workers have the right to
remove themselves from hazardous work conditions without fear of dismissal.
f. Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits trafficking in persons.
On January 19, the Government arrested and repatriated
several women from the former Soviet Union who were transported to the
country to work as prostitutes.
Very young children, usually of African or South Asian
background, have been used as jockeys in camel races (see Sections 5 and
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, U.S. State Department,