By Dr / Ahmed Sallam
Through its Media trumpets, the Qatari regime assumes the role of the defender of democracy and directs criticisms and advice to all the peoples of earth except the miserable people of Qatar. The Qatari people are ruled by one of the worst despotic regimes, a regime that was designed to govern a “fiefdom” or a “private estate”. The regime controls all aspects of life in Qatar and possesses all the wealth and resources; the Emir along with his hypocritical, rapacious cronies enslaves the Qatari people. The Qatari regime practically denies the existence of their own people and devote their time to lecturing other nations on democracy and human rights; notions that their own people are completely deprived from.
The State of Qatar knew no constitutions for over 30 years between its independence in 1970 and the year 2004 when the State’s first constitution was issued. The 2004 constitution was in fact nothing but a document that codified and legitimized the same mechanisms of control and oppression that are widely practiced by Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani and his son and successor Tamim.
The so called “permanent constitution of Qatar” according to this study drafted and prepared by the State Information Service is devoid of the most basic guarantees of basic rights and freedoms. This so called constitution also cements the absolute powers of the Emir and places severe restrictions on the basic rights of Qatari citizens. This constitution basically stripped all institutions of any effective powers and concentrates it all in the hands of Emir. So how can they preach to the world qualities they don’t possess? This is the situation in Emir’s fiefdom?
The Unconstitutional Constitution
By reading through the 150 articles of the Qatari constitution we find that the methods by which Qatar is governed are truly unprecedented in this century and even the previous one. The Emir of Qatar in 2004 issued the constitution and termed it as the permanent constitution of Qatar which is in a way problematic. There is no such thing as a permanent constitution as every constitution can be amended and in fact article 148 of Qatari constitution states that the constitution can be amended 10 years from the date of its promulgation. Without a doubt the real motive behind calling the constitution permanent is to spread despair in the hearts of the Qatari people and deter them from challenging the absolute powers of the Emir which are protected by constitutional articles that may not be amended according to the constitution itself.
The preamble of the constitution states that it was issued by Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, which presents the constitution as a gift from the Emir. Hamad said that this constitution aims to embody democratic governance and popular participation of the people. However, the constitution came in complete and utter contrast to Hamad’s pledges.
The legislator devoted Chapter Three of the so called Permanent Constitution of the State of Qatar to public rights and duties. Nevertheless, this document failed to include even the most basic human rights, and overlooked many of them. The rights mentioned in the document superficially stipulated the preservation of every citizen's right to personal freedom, protection from arbitrary detention, and freedom of movement, but in reality these rights are aborted by adding the phrase “except in accordance with the provisions of the law” at the end of a number of important articles. This left the door wide open for the regime to completely disregard all basic rights, and to restrict them as they may. Some rights can be restricted to the extent that they may be completely suspended, such rights include, the rights to association and peaceful assembly as well as freedom of expression.
Some of rights were explicitly stipulated, but detracted from them in a way that leads to their restriction and suspension, and there are some other rights that the "constitution" never explicitly mentioned.
Rights that were never mentioned
The constitution does not guarantee or mention the right to peaceful strike
The Qatari constitution did guarantee or mention freedom of movement and immigration, and it did not prohibit the arbitrary forced displacement of citizens.
The Qatari constitution does not allow the existence of syndicates or Labour unions.
The Qatari constitution does not address the right to form political parties.
The constitution did not prohibit slavery, oppression, and the forced exploitation of the human being.
The constitution does criminalize violating public rights and freedoms guaranteed by its provisions and the law.
The Qatari constitution in Article 35 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, origin, language, or religion. The article neglects the provision of non-discrimination on the basis of race, color, language, disability, social level, political or geographical affiliation, or any other reason.
Article 41 of the constitution stipulates that Qatari nationality and its provisions are determined by law, without the article stipulating who has the right to acquire nationality. The law did not grant citizenship to anyone born to a Qatari mother except with the same conditions that could grant citizenship to every non-Qatari resident on the land of Qatar without any advantage for his birth from a Qatari mother, and this is a major violation of the principle of gender equality.
Article 44 of the constitution stipulates that citizens' right to assemble is guaranteed in accordance with the provisions of the law. It would have been better if it was stipulated that this right is fulfilled by notification. Without referring the whole matter to the law, which was subsequently passed with arbitrary provisions prohibiting assembly.
Article 45 of the constitution stipulates that freedom of association is guaranteed in accordance with the terms and conditions specified by the law. The law which was subsequently issued with arbitrary provisions preventing the formation of associations.
Article 48 of the constitution stipulates that freedom of the press, printing and publishing is guaranteed in accordance with the law. The situation in this article does not differ much from the previous two articles, because the Qatari authorities issued a law in 1979 restricting freedom of the expressing, permitting the imprisonment of journalists and allowing the closure of press institutions.
Article 57 of the constitution requires citizens, residents and visitors to respect public morals and take into account national traditions and established customs without providing any clear definition of these overly broad terms that may carry a thousand meanings. Thus this flawed article allows the legislator to enact laws and penalties as he pleases within the framework it provides.
Article 58 of the Qatari Constitution, addresses the right to asylum. It does not give any guarantees to asylum seekers, nor does it provide them with the protection granted to refugees, in clear violation of the 1951 Convention on the Rights of Refugees and widely accepted international norms. Qatar’s failure to sign the 1951 Convention does not justify its failure to adhere to international custom, which in itself is one of the main sources of international law. Consequently, the constitutional text on asylum in the Qatari constitution does not oblige the legislator to provide the necessary guarantees to protect asylum seekers.
Chapter Four of the Qatari Constitution is nothing more than a set of texts that grant the Emir and the ruling family absolute power, and these are some of its features.
No Separation of Powers
In modern democratic countries, there is a clear separation between the three branches of government, "executive, legislative, and judicial," and this is what Article 60 of the Constitution stipulated, but in reality all powers are in the hands of the Emir, and Article 60 does not define the separation of powers. The Emir is the head of the state and holds all the reins of power be it Executive, judicial or legislative, as he is the one who appoints the Council of Ministers, and appoints all members of the Legislative Council to date in violation of the Qatari Constitution, which stipulated the election of two-thirds of the council, but the country has not witnessed any elections so far. As for the judiciary in Qatar, the Emir exercises complete control over it, as he has the authority to appoint the president of the Court of Cassation, who is also the head of the Supreme Judicial Council, without stipulating specific controls for his appointment, and without a recommendation from the Judicial Council.
After the previous presentation of the method of appointing members of the government, the Shura Council, and the judiciary, it becomes clear that the Emir enjoys absolute control over the three branches of government, in violation of the principle of separation of powers recognized and accepted all over the world.
Powers of the Emir
The Conclusion of International Treaties
Article 68 gave the Emir the right to conclude international treaties, and he is only required to notify the Shura Council; this comes in clear violation of the inherent right of the legislative authority to ratify treaties. Only peace treaties and agreements related to the rights of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state are required to be approved by the Shura Council bearing in mind that such agreements of high importance in the constitutions of many other countries must be approved by a popular referendum. The constitution in this article also overrides all international norms, as it allows the existence of secret clauses in treaties concluded by Qatar.
Declaring Martial Law
Article 69 on declaring martial law is flawed, as it grants the emir the power to declare martial law without any restrictions. It did not require the emir to obtain the approval of the Shura Council except to extend the period of its implementation bearing in mind that the Emir is free to determine the length of this period. This article, in its current form, unleashes the Emir’s power to declare martial law for the duration he desires without the need for an approval from Parliament.
Article 71 of the constitution states that "A royal decree shall be issued in the declaration of defensive war and that Offensive war is forbidden." This article gives the Emir the power to declare war without obtaining the approval of the Shura Council or even notifying it, and thus the ruler may throw his country into war and its horrors without obtaining permission or even the opinion of the supposedly only elected authority in the country.
The power to appoint members of the cabinet
Articles 72 and 73 give the Emir the absolute right to appoint ministers and the prime minister without having to obtain the confidence of the Shura Council.
Appointing one third of the Shura Council
Article 77 of the Qatari constitution stipulates that “The Shura Council shall consist of forty-five members. Thirty of them shall be elected by direct, secret, general suffrage, and the Emir appoints the other fifteen members from among the government ministers or others. The membership of those appointed to the Shura Council shall end with their resignation or dismissal.” It is worth noting that the State of Qatar has not witnessed any elections yet, and this comes clear violation of the Qatari constitution, which stipulated that two-thirds of the members of the Shura Council should be elected, and thus the current Shura Council is composed entirely of members appointed by the Emir.
Dissolving the Shura Council
Article 104 of the constitution gives the emir an absolute right to dissolve the Shura Council by decree with mentioning reasons for dissolution, without subjecting his decree a popular referendum, and this is a serious violation of the independence of the legislative authority and the principle of the sovereignty of the people. As the executive ruler is not elected and is not subject to any oversight and has the power dissolve the legislative and oversight authority that represents the people without going through the constitutional regulations recognized in many countries of the world in such cases. This in actuality eliminates any checks and balances between the 3 branches of government.
The Shura Council (a council without powers)
Article 76 of the constitution stipulates that the Shura Council is the legislative authority of the State of Qatar, and limits the powers of the Shura Council to three matters only: legislation, approval of the budget and oversight of the executive authority. Its worth mentioning that Qatar has a unicameral parliament which means that the Shura Council is supposed to be the only popularly elected body in accordance with the constitution (And its not).
Despite that the powers of parliament have been limited to three functions only, the Qatari legislator even degraded the powers of the Shura Council further. For example, the Qatari legislator gave the emir the right to suspend the law even after the approval of two-thirds of the Shura Council without reasons, as the third paragraph of Article 106 of the Constitution stipulates that “The Emir may, when absolutely necessary, order the suspension of the application of this law for a period that he estimates will achieve the supreme interests of the country”. This article clearly granted the Emir the power to suspend a law for as long as he wishes, which makes this article absurd, as it gives him the power to circumvent the Shura Council and stop the implementation of laws that he does not necessarily agree with.
As for the general budget, Article 107 jeopardizes the right of the Shura Council to discuss and issue the general budget, as the council may not amend it except with the approval of the government, and in the event that it does not approve the budget before the beginning of the new fiscal year, the general budget for the previous year is automatically approved and implemented.
According to Article 111 of the constitution, the Shura Council does have the right to withdraw confidence from the cabinet or its head, and it limits the withdrawal of confidence to ministers only, and the approval of two-thirds of the council’s members is required to withdraw confidence from any minister.
In the end, Article 92 of the Constitution stipulates that members of the Shura Council must pledge an oath of loyalty to the Emir. This completely hampers their independence as members of the authority that supposedly exercises oversight over the executive authority which is headed by the Emir.
These articles completely lay waste to the actual powers of the Shura Council and render it meaningless.
Not holding constitutionally mandated elections
Although Articles 77, 78, 79, 80 and 81 provide for the election of members of the Shura Council, the Qatari regime, since the issuance of this constitution in 2004, has not held a single legislative election over the past sixteen years, and therefore the Shura Council is entirely composed of Members appointed by the Emir, and its mandate is renewed and extended by royal decree every term with the last one extending it to mid-2021. This comes in complete violation of the articles of this constitution and a clear contravention of the right to political participation guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
A controlled Judicial System
Article 134 of the constitution prohibits the dismissal of judges from their posts except in cases regulated by the law, and the article did not specify the exception that allows for the dismissal of judges in detail, and the constitution did not link dismissal with disciplinary accountability, which makes this article loose and open for interpretation and thus opens the door to the Emir’s absolute control over judges.
Article 137 which addresses the affairs of the Supreme Judicial Council did not specify its membership or how it should be formed, and left that to be regulated by the law, which makes this council lose all guarantees of its independence.
Article 140 allows the law to determine the judicial authority that settles constitutional disputes, and this in light of the above articles does not provide the appropriate environment for establishing an effective and independent judicial system that protects the constitution and ensures its application in legislations issued Qatari regime.
Articles pertaining to the System of governance cannot be amended!
The Constitution’s despotic nature did not stop at granting the Emir absolute powers. Article 145 fortified the articles on governance by preventing them from being amended. Through this constitution the Qatari regime hijacked the people’s will and deprived them from all their rights and freedoms. This constitution shows the true colors of a regime that uses its Media trumpets to preach democracy and freedom while in reality they do not remotely possess any of these qualities at home.