Report on Human Rights Practices for 2001
Qatar, an Arab state on the Persian Gulf, is a monarchy with no constitution
or political parties. It 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 participated in the free and fair election
of a national body, the Central Municipal Council, for the first time.
The judiciary is nominally independent, but 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, consists of two
sections: The police and the General Administration of Public Security.
An independent state security investigative unit (Mubahith) which reports
directly to the Amiri Diwan (the office of the Amir), performs internal
security investigations, gathers intelligence, and is responsible for
sedition and espionage cases. There also is an independent civilian
intelligence service (Mukhabarat), which also reports directly to the
The population of the country is approximately 650,000, of whom 170,000
are believed to be citizens. 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 play an increasingly important role. The per capita
gross domestic product of citizens is $28,792. 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 3 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 the human rights of its citizens;
however, its record was poor in some areas, particularly regarding citizens'
right to change their government and the treatment of foreign workers.
Citizens do not have the right to change their government peacefully.
The Government severely limits the rights of assembly and association.
The Government restricts freedom of religion although it continued to
take some steps to ease restrictions on the practice of non-Muslim religions.
Women's rights are restricted by law and social customs. Women have
the right to vote. The Government severely restricts workers' rights.
Domestic servants are mistreated and at times abused. Noncitizens, who
make up more than 75 percent of the residents of the country, face discrimination
in the workplace. The country also is a destination for trafficked persons.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports of the arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life
committed by the Government or its agents.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits torture, and unlike in the previous year, there were
no allegations of torture by security forces. 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. Punishments are not administered
The International Committee of the Red Cross visited prisons in 2000;
no other organization has requested to visit the prisons. Prison conditions
generally meet international standards. Women are held separately from
men, and juveniles are held separately from adults. Pretrial detainees
are held separately from convicted prisoners.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the police
have the discretion to arrest persons based on minimal suspicion. There
were no reports of arbitrary detention in security cases, as had been
the case in the past. The authorities generally charge suspects within
48 hours. Suspects usually 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. Judges may extend pretrial detention for 1 week at a
time to allow the authorities to conduct investigations or order the
release of the suspect through bail. Lengthy pretrial detention is not
known to occur. The accused is entitled to legal representation throughout
the process. There are no provisions for making legal counsel available
to indigents at state expense. Suspects who are detained in security
cases are generally afforded access to counsel; however, they may be
detained indefinitely while under investigation. There were no cases
of incommunicado detention during the year.
In March former Ministry of Education official Abdulrahman Al Nuaimi,
who had been imprisoned since 1998 after publicly criticizing the Amir
for purportedly anti-Islamic actions, was pardoned by the Amir and released.
In May the Appeals Court upheld the guilty verdicts and sentenced to
death 19 of those convicted of involvement in a February 1996 coup attempt,
including prime suspect Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Hamad Al-Thani.
The final decision to carry out or commute the executions rests with
the Amir. The Amir had not made a decision by year's end, and the 19
remain in prison. The remaining 14 suspects' sentences of life imprisonment
The law does not address forced exile and in the past the Government
has used forced exile; however, there were no reported cases of forced
exile during the 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 Amir appoints all judges for renewable
Responsibility for the judiciary is shared among the bureaucracies
of three ministries. Adlea (Civil Law) Courts are subordinate to the
Ministry of Justice, Shari'a (Islamic law) courts fall under the Ministry
of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, and Prosecutors fall under the Ministry
There are two types of courts. The Adlea courts have jurisdiction in
commercial, national security, all forms of trafficking (including drugs,
contraband, and persons), and criminal matters. The Shari'a courts have
jurisdiction in family, inheritance, deportation, wrongful injury, and
most other civil cases. The law provides for the establishment of ad
hoc state security courts. Although there have been no cases before
these courts since the current 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 Appeals Court is the highest
in the country.
The Shari'a courts apply most principles contained in the draft Family
Status Law, which covers marriage, inheritance, and juvenile matters,
to cases currently under adjudication. Some provisions of the legislation
continue to be debated. Shari'a trials usually are brief. Shari'a family
law trials often are held without counsel; however, an increasing number
of litigants, especially women, use lawyers to present their cases.
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 cases of violent
crime. Citizens or noncitizens may provide bail. 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.
Defendants in the civil courts have the right to be represented by defense
Both Muslim and non-Muslim litigants may request the Shari'a courts
to assume jurisdiction in family, commercial, and civil cases. Trials
in both the Adlea and the Shari'a courts are public, but the presiding
judge can close the courtroom to the public if the case is deemed sensitive.
Lawyers in the past did not play a formal role except to prepare litigants
for their cases; however, an increasing number of litigants avail themselves
of a lawyer to present their cases, particularly in divorce cases. In
such cases, lawyers prepare the litigants and speak for them during
the hearing. Non-Arabic speakers are provided with interpreters. Defendants
are entitled to legal representation throughout the trial and pretrial
Foreigners are disadvantaged, especially in cases involving the performance
of contracts. However, provided that the foreign defendant's sponsor
or embassy agrees, the defendant is entitled to legal representation
throughout the trial and pretrial process
Defendants appear before a judge for a preliminary hearing within 4
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.
After a public trial of persons arrested for involvement in the 1996
coup attempt, trial judges sentenced 33 defendants to life imprisonment
in 2000. Nine of them were tried in absentia. Another 85 defendants
were acquitted on all charges. In May the Appeals Court upheld the guilty
verdicts and sentenced to death 19 of the 33 convicted; the Amir had
not made a decision by year's end whether to carry out or commute the
death sentences (see Section 1.d.).
There were no known political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits such actions, and the Government generally respects
these prohibitions in practice. 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 citizens and residents;
there is no distinction between citizens and noncitizens. A warrant
must be obtained before police may search a residence or business, except
in cases involving national security or emergencies. Judicial authorities
issue search warrants. 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.
Citizens must obtain government permission to marry foreigners and
to apply for residence permits or citizenship for their spouses; such
permission generally is granted.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The law does not provide for freedom of speech and of the press, and
the Government imposes some restrictions on these rights in practice.
The Government in 1995 lifted formal censorship of the media, although
some restrictions still remain.
Citizens express many of their views freely and in public. Although
sensitive political and religious questions are off-limits, for many
citizens there is little fear of government monitoring of their speech;
however, the larger noncitizen population does not enjoy the same latitude
and does not express itself freely and publicly. Louay Abdulla, a noncitizen
employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was sentenced in March
to 2 years in prison for insulting the Amir by creating a Web site the
Government considered offensive. An appeals court upheld the sentence
in June. He was pardoned in December.
There are five daily newspapers, three in Arabic and two in English;
none are state-owned, but the owners or board members of newspapers
generally are either high-level government officials or have ties to
government officials. Copies of foreign newspapers and magazines are
censored for explicit sexual content. The law provides for criminal
penalties and jail sentences for libel. All cases involving the media
fall under the jurisdiction of the criminal courts. Journalists continue
to practice self-censorship due to social and political pressures when
reporting on government policies, the ruling family, and relations with
neighboring states. The Government in 2000 reportedly subjected some
journalists to pressure after they published articles critical of the
Although personal criticism of government officials is rare, the performance
of ministries is the subject of extensive reporting. The Ministry of
Education was criticized for poor management of school facilities and
for not following through with needed reforms. Members of the elected
Municipal Council also have publicly criticized the Ministry of Municipal
Affairs for bureaucratic inefficiencies. During the year, the Ministry
of Education sued one Arabic-language newspaper for a critical report
regarding poor maintenance at public schools. The case was pending at
The Ministry of Information was abolished in 1996, and the Censorship
Office was moved to the Qatar Radio and Television Corporation. The
Office reviews materials for pornography, sexually explicit material,
and material deemed hostile to Islam. There were no reports of political
censorship of foreign news media or foreign programs. Customs officials
screen imported print media, videocassettes, and similar items for pornography,
but no longer block the personal importation of non-Islamic religious
items (see section 2.c.).
State-owned television and radio reflect government views, but the
private satellite television network, Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel (JSC),
operates freely. Although it is privately owned, since its inception,
some of Al-Jazeera's operating costs have been paid by the Government.
Al-Jazeera's programs are internationally oriented and generally do
not cover local news. Callers to a popular morning radio show frequently
discuss topics such as government inefficiency and the lack of responsiveness
by various ministries to citizens' needs, for example, poor schools,
weak infrastructure, problems at the university, and road repairs. A
growing number of citizens and residents have access to the Internet,
which is provided through the privatized telecommunications monopoly.
During the year, its rates were lowered by approximately 30 percent,
encouraging greater use of the Internet. Internet service is censored
for pornographic content through a proxy server, which blocks Web sites
containing certain key words and phrases. A user who believes that a
site is censored mistakenly may submit the web address to have the site
reviewed for suitability. The Government is responsive to such submissions.
Web sites are monitored for political or religious content. Material
considered insulting to Islam (including pornography) is censored.
There is no legal provision or tradition of academic freedom, and instructors
at the University of Qatar exercise self-censorship.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The law does not provide for the freedom of assembly, and the Government
severely limits it in practice. The Government generally does not allow
political demonstrations; however, it permitted a peaceful demonstration
of about 1,500 participants in August under the aegis of the Central
Municipal Council to protest the Israeli Government's actions against
Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Another anti-Israeli
demonstration of about 3,000 was authorized in October 2000. The Government
also permitted peaceful demonstration against the World Trade Organization
The law does not provide for freedom of association, and the Government
severely limits it in practice. 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; registration of such groups is routinely granted. Security
forces monitor the activities of such groups.
c. Freedom of Religion
There is no legal protection for freedom of religion, and the Government
officially prohibits public worship by non-Muslims; however, it permits
and protects private religious services that have received prior authorization.
The state religion is Islam, as interpreted by the conservative Wahhabi
order of the Sunni branch. While Shi'a Muslims practice most aspects
of their faith freely, they do not organize traditional Shi'a ceremonies
or perform rites such as self-flagellation.
The Government and ruling family are linked inextricably to Islam.
The Minister of Islamic Affairs controls the construction of mosques,
the administration of clerical affairs, and Islamic education. The Amir
participates in public prayers during both Eid holiday periods, and
personally finances the Hajj journeys of poor pilgrims who cannot afford
to travel to Mecca.
The Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox churches received de facto official
recognition in the latter part of 1999, when the Government made a verbal
commitment to allow the churches to operate without interference. The
Government has respected this commitment in practice, but it had not
granted these churches formal recognition by year's end. The Government
does not recognize any other religions, officially or unofficially.
It does not maintain an official approved register of religious congregations.
The Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican churches operate openly, and the
Anglican Church, with its ties to preindependence British influence,
has bank accounts in its name. However, the lack of formal government
recognition limits their ability to obtain trade licenses, sponsor clergy,
or, for Catholic and Orthodox churches, to open bank accounts in the
name of the church.
During the year, the Catholic Church developed plans and raised funds
to begin construction of a church. The church building is to be located
on a portion of the site reserved by the Government for the Catholic,
Anglican, and Orthodox communities. However, fundraising problems have
delayed the other congregations in completing their plans. The Government
has voiced concerns that a rapid pace of progress may provoke opposition
among more conservative citizens.
Non-Muslims may not proselytize, and the Government officially prohibits
public worship by non-Muslims. However, it does permit and protect private
services. Converting from Islam is considered apostasy, and is technically
a capital offense; however, there is no record of an execution for such
a crime since 1971.
Non-Muslim religious services must be authorized in advance by the
Government. Although traffic police may direct cars at these services,
the congregations may not publicly advertise them in advance or use
visible religious symbols such as outdoor crosses. Some services, particularly
those on Easter and Christmas, can draw more than 1,300 worshippers.
The Government does not permit Hindus, Buddhists, or other polytheistic
religions to operate as freely as Christian congregations. (The Koran
does not specifically enjoin toleration for such religions.) However,
there is no official effort to harass or hamper adherents of these faiths
in the private practice or their religion. There are no reliable estimates
of the number of non-Muslims in the country.
The Government formally prohibits the publication, importation, and
distribution of 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; however,
during the year, Christian worship groups reported having no trouble
importing religious instructional materials (for example, Sunday school
materials and devotionals) for their use. In addition, religious materials
for use at Christmas and Easter are available readily in local shops.
However, such materials are not available in Arabic.
Islamic instruction is compulsory in public schools. While there are
no restrictions on non-Muslims providing private religious instruction
for children, most foreign children attend secular private schools.
Both Muslim and non-Muslim litigants may request the Shari'a courts
to assume jurisdiction in commercial or civil cases.
The legal system follows Shari'a law in matters of inheritance and
child custody. Muslims have the automatic right to inherit from their
spouses; however non-Muslim spouses (invariably wives, since Muslim
women cannot legally marry non-Muslims) do not inherit unless their
spouse formally wills them a portion (up to one third of the total)
of their estates. In cases of divorce, young children usually remain
with the mother, whatever her religion. However, the Government will
not allow noncitizen parents, even if they have custody of their children,
to take them out of the country without the permission of the citizen
parent, which effectively discriminates against non-Muslim parents.
d. Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration,
The law provides for these rights, and the Government generally respects
them in practice, with some notable exceptions. 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 and children 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 the
extent to which this regulation is enforced is not known. Citizens critical
of the Government sometimes face restrictions on their right to travel
All citizens have the right to return. Foreigners are subject to immigration
restrictions designed to control the size of the local labor force.
Foreign workers must have the permission of their sponsor employer to
enter and depart the country (see Sections 6.c. and 6.d.), 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 the country 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.
The issue of the provision of first asylum did not arise during the
year. There were no reports of the forced return of persons to a country
where they feared persecution.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change
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. The Government does not permit
political parties or organized opposition groups.
The Amir exercises most executive and legislative powers, including
appointment of cabinet members. In 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 in free
and fair elections. The Council is a nonpartisan body that addresses
local issues such as street repair, green space, trash collection, and
public works projects. Its role is to advise the Minister of Municipal
Affairs and Agriculture. The Council does not have the authority to
In November 1998, the Amir announced the formation of a committee to
draft a permanent constitution that would provide for parliamentary
elections. The constitutional committee was inaugurated in July 1999
and includes 36 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 expected to complete a draft constitution by
The percentage of women in government or politics does not correspond
to their percentage of the population. Impediments that prevent or hinder
women from participating in politics include lack of experience and
role models, and the traditional society, in which women are expected
to be mothers and caretakers.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental
Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government does not permit local human rights organizations to
No international human rights organizations are known to have requested
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 the year.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability,
Language, or Social Status
The law prohibits discrimination in the workplace; however, institutional,
cultural, and legal discrimination based on gender, race, religion,
social status, and disability exists.
According to a local nongovernmental organization (NGO) on family issues,
domestic violence against women occurs, but is not widespread. According
to Shari'a, all forms of physical abuse are illegal. The maximum penalty
for rape is death. Shari'a provides for no punishment for spousal rape.
The police investigate reports of violence against women. In the past
few years, the Government has demonstrated an increased willingness
to make arrests in cases of domestic violence, whether against citizens
or foreigners. However, offenders who are citizens usually received
lighter punishments than do foreigners. There were no arrests or convictions
for domestic violence during the year.
Employers mistreated some foreign domestic servants, especially those
from South Asia and the Philippines. In most cases, the mistreatment
involved nonpayment or late payment of wages, but also included 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.
Abused domestic servants usually do not press charges for fear of losing
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.
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.
A non-Muslim women is not required to convert to Islam upon marriage
to a Muslim; however, many make a personal decision to do so. A noncitizen
woman is not required to become a citizen upon marriage to a citizen.
Children born to a Muslim father are considered to be Muslim.
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. Professional opportunities for women are increasing. Many serve
as senior professionals in government service, education, health, and
private business. Women make up almost 40 percent of the workforce.
The Government has publicly encouraged women to work and is a leading
employer of women, who constitute approximately 45 percent of the government
workforce, and include university professors, public school teachers,
and police. 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. During the year, a nongovernmental
working committee was established to make recommendations on how the
Government could provide housing allowances for female government employees,
in particular single women, who currently do not receive any housing
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.
The Government actively supports women's education. Females constitute
approximately two-thirds of the student body at Qatar University. Increasingly
women receive government scholarships to pursue degrees at foreign universities.
A draft Family Status Law covering marriage, inheritance, divorce,
and child custody is under review by the Ministry of Justice, after
which it will be submitted to the Advisory Council and the Cabinet.
Women have actively participated in drafting the law by forming committees,
organizing and chairing public meetings and discussions, actively provoking
debates on the issues, and publicizing the draft law.
There is no independent women's rights organization, nor has the Government
permitted the establishment of one. One NGO seeks to improve the status
of women and the family under both civil and Islamic law. This NGO is
run entirely by women, and focuses on the health and education of, and
provision of assistance to, women and children, particularly the poor.
The Government demonstrates its commitment to citizens' children's
rights through a well-funded, free public education system (elementary
through university) and a complete medical protection program. Education
is compulsory for citizens (both boys and girls) through the age of
18. On October 29, the Amir issued a decree making education through
primary school (the equivalent of 9th grade) compulsory and free for
all noncitizen resident children. Medical coverage for noncitizen children
Very young children, usually of African or South Asian origin, are used
as jockeys in camel races (see Sections 6.d. and 6.f.).
There is no societal pattern of abuse of children.
The Supreme Council for Family Affairs, in collaboration with the Ministry
of Interior, set up a hotline called the Friendly Line for use by children.
The system allows both citizen and noncitizen children to call in with
questions and concerns ranging from school, health, and psychological
problems to concerns about sexual harassment.
Persons with Disabilities
The law does not address the question of discrimination against persons
with disabilities. The Government has not enacted legislation or otherwise
mandated provision of accessibility for persons with disabilities, who
also face societal discrimination. The Government maintains a hospital
and schools that provide high-quality, free services to persons, including
noncitizens, with mental and physical disabilities.
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. Non-Muslims are not known to
face governmental or societal discrimination or violence.
The Government discriminates based on nationality in the areas of employment,
education, housing, and health services. Noncitizens do not receive
the same benefits as citizens. They must pay for health care, electricity,
water, and education (services that are provided free of charge to citizens)
and are not permitted to own property. The largest nationality groups
among noncitizens are Indian, Pakistani, and Iranian nationals, and
Arab nationals of other countries. In the private sector, many citizens
of Iranian origin occupy some of the highest positions.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The right of association is limited strictly. The law prohibits all
workers, including foreigners, from forming labor unions. The law provides
for the establishment of joint consultative committees composed of representatives
of the employer and workers. The committees do not discuss wages but
consider issues such as organization, productivity, conditions of employment,
training of workers, and safety measures and their implementation.
The law provides most workers with the right to strike, but only after
their particular grievance has been ruled on by the Labor Department
of the Ministry of Civil Service. Employers may close a place of work
or dismiss employees once the Department has heard a complaint. The
Department widely is perceived to be objective, particularly with regard
to the most common complaints of foreign workers--the nonpayment of
wages and poor living conditions.
The right to strike does not exist for government employees, domestic
servants, or members of the employer's family. No worker in a public
utility, health, or security service may strike if it would harm the
public or lead to property damage.
The press actively reports on the increasing number of labor actions
and grievances by foreign workers. The frequency of such strikes is
steadily increasing. There was an average of two to three strikes per
month during the year, usually in front of the Labor Department. Most
strikes are held in protest of the nonpayment of wages and poor living
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 Collectively
Workers are prohibited from engaging in collective bargaining. Wages
are set unilaterally by employers without government involvement. Local
courts handle disputes between workers and employers; however, foreign
workers tend to avoid drawing attention to their problems with their
employers for fear of being repatriated at the request of their employer.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor; however, foreign workers
in some cases were employed under circumstances that constituted forced
labor. Three-quarters of the workforce are foreign workers who are dependent
on a single employer for residency rights. This leaves them vulnerable
to abuse. For example, 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. In extreme cases, employers
have deported employees at the end of their contract in order to avoid
paying them the lawfully mandated end-of-service bonus. Unskilled workers
and domestic servants are particularly vulnerable to nonpayment or late
payment of wages. Although it is government policy to assist laborers
seeking payment of late salaries due (usually through the Labor Department),
small groups of laborers (10 to 20) resorted to illegal work stoppages
to force payment of arrears. In one case, 1,500 employees of a local
construction company went on strike to force payment of their wages.
The country is a destination for trafficked women and children (see
The Government prohibits forced and bonded labor by children; however,
very young boys work as jockeys in camel races (see Section 6.f.).
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The law provides that minors between the ages of 15 and 18 may be employed
with the approval of their parents or guardians, and some children work
in small, family-owned businesses. Minors may not work more than 6 hours
a day or more than 36 hours a week. Employers must provide the Labor
Department with the names and occupations of their minor employees.
Employers also must obtain permission from the Ministry of Education
to hire a minor. The Department may prohibit the employment of minors
in jobs that are judged dangerous to the health, safety, or morals of
minors. Child labor occurs. Very young children, usually of African
or South Asian background, have been employed as jockeys in camel races
(see Section 6.f.).
The law prohibits forced and bonded labor by children and generally
enforces this prohibition effectively with respect to citizen children
(see Section 6.c.).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There is no minimum wage, although the law provides the Amir with authority
to set one. The average wage provides a decent standard of living for
a worker and family. 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 unskilled laborers
and domestic and personal employees, all of whom, with scant exception,
are foreigners. Many such workers frequently work 7 days per week, and
more than 12 hours per day with few or no holidays, no overtime pay,
and no effective way to redress grievances.
The Government has enacted regulations regarding worker safety, 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 safety
standards and procedures. The law 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. Workers who
suffer work-related sickness or injuries receive free medical treatment
provided by the Government. The law does not provide workers specifically
the right to remove themselves from hazardous work conditions, and workers
often hesitate to remove themselves from hazardous work conditions because
of fear of dismissal.
Foreign workers may enter the country on a visitor's visa, but a sponsor
then is needed to convert the visitor's visa to a work visa and the
worker must have his sponsor's permission to depart the country. The
Government also penalizes citizen employers who severely violate residence
and sponsorship laws by prohibiting them from importing labor until
they rectify the situation. The law provides any worker with the right
to seek legal relief from onerous work conditions; however, domestic
servants generally do not pursue such relief in order to avoid repatriation.
Employers mistreated some foreign domestic servants. Such mistreatment
generally involves the nonpayment or late payment of wages; in some
cases it involves rape and physical abuse (see Section 5).
f. Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits prostitution and trafficking in persons; however,
there were reports that both children and women were trafficked to the
Children age 4-15, mostly of African, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi origin,
are used as jockeys in camel races. Guardians and handlers, who often
pose as parents, bring the children into the country and supervise their
training. They live in difficult conditions and train on a daily basis
to become riders.
The country also is a destination for trafficked women and girls. Women
from East Asia, South Asia, and Africa travel to the country to work
as domestic servants and some have reported being forced into domestic
servitude and sexual exploitation.
The Government does not investigate or prosecute traffickers actively.
The Government repatriates victims of trafficking upon discovering their
presence and does not provide assistance to victims. It does not support
public awareness campaigns regarding the problem of trafficking of women
and girls. A national campaign to set the minimum age of 15 and minimum
weight of 100 pounds for camel jockeys was undertaken in April. The
Supreme Council for Family Affairs claims that it is a top priority,
and it is the subject of an ongoing media and public awareness campaign.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, U.S.
State Department, March 2002