UN's highest court to hear Qatar case over UAE 'rights violations'

UN's highest court to hear Qatar case over UAE 'rights violations'
Qatar has condemned the "campaign of political and economic coercion" during a year-long blockade.
3 min read
15 June, 2018
Qatar Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani denounced the "unlawful" blockade [Getty]

The UN's highest court will hold public hearings this month in an urgent case between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, over "human rights violations and "discrimination".

Doha's lawyers will lay out their arguments before the International Court of Justice on June 27 at a three-day hearing in which Abu Dhabi will also be given the chance to respond, a court statement said. 

In June last year Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt abruptly severed ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and Iran. Doha categorically denies the claims.

The four countries expelled Qataris, and the country's only land border with Saudi Arabia has been closed for the past year.

Read more: Fear and Loathing on the Arabian Peninsula

Qatar said the dispute is an attack on its sovereignty and punishment for pursuing an independent foreign policy.

On Monday, the Qatari foreign ministry denounced "human rights violations arising from the UAE's discrimination against Qatar and Qatari citizens".

It also condemned "an unlawful land, sea and air siege against Qatar as part of a campaign of political and economic coercion".

"The unlawful measures imposed by UAE have torn apart families," the ministry said in a statement quoting Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.

"The UAE deprived Qatari companies and individuals of property and assets and denied fundamental access to education, medicine and justice in the UAE courts," he added.

Because of this, the ministry said, Qatar had started proceedings against the UAE at the Hague-based ICJ which rules in disputes between countries.

The tiny, gas-rich nation "requests the court as a matter of urgency" to order Abu Dhabi to "cease and desist... any form of racial discrimination against Qatari individuals," the statement said.

"In particular the UAE shall immediately cease and desist from violations of human rights of Qataris," it said, citing the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which both countries have signed.

Doha also demands Abu Dhabi "make full reparations, including compensation for the harm suffered as a result of the UAE's actions".

The four nations have demanded Doha accepts a list of 13 conditions, including shutting Al Jazeera and The New Arab, to open a dialogue to resolve the conflict. Mediation efforts, mainly led by the emir of fellow Gulf state Kuwait, have so far failed to break the deadlock.

While the crisis has shaken the politics of the region, it has also had serious impact on the lives of ordinary civilians on the ground, a report published last week found, including the separation of families, disrupted imports, including medical resources and construction materials, among other obstacles.

In January, the UN's human rights office accused the four countries of orchestrating a hate campaign against Qatar, which included threats to kill the country's emir.