Qatar: No one is above the law – really?

No one is above the law in Qatar, a top official recently said in remarks made ahead of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which Qatar is currently hosting.

“Our system is based on equality and justice,” Attorney General Ali bin Futais Al Marri said in a recent program aired on Al Jazeera and reported by local newspaper the Peninsula.

Bemused, incredulous and wistful, Doha bloggers have been debating the merits of Al Marri's remarks all week.

On Twitter, IvanGiesbrecht said:


According to the Peninsula:

The Emir has never interfered with the judiciary. The Constitution gives him the authority to grant pardon to a convict only after the court has issued its sentence. So during a trial he has never ever tried to interfere, said Al Marri, adding that it was at the Emir’s directives that his office as well as the judiciary have been separated from the executive. Such is the level of fair play and equality in Qatar that once a senior police official was accused of slapping an Asian. The allegations were investigated and after the charges were proved, trial was conducted and the policeman was sentenced to six months in jail and stripped off his job.

On the forum Qatar Living,

Nic said

We, who work here, all, know the level of integrity this countries displays and this reputation is becoming well known in the west among those who have never been here. Qatar is starting to be known by its hunger for fame and good reputation and instead of improving things, they just hide the problems under the carpet! Look how the article puts it: “In other Arab countries, the political will to combat corruption is missing.” What makes these guys think that they are any better from other Arab countries?!?!?!

genesis was more optimistic:

But we are learning. Why do you think they opened all those universities at EC and encourge critcal thinking among locals? They know that once those who graduated from those universities will demand change. Why all those institutes are established? Why sign all those International agreements? The Emir yesterday have given full support and power to the public attorney office & Audit bureau on tracking down corruption cases. We are a “new” country in the world stage. 15 years ago, there wasn’t even a system. Just a copycat from other bureaucratic Arab systems.

On Twitter, peterlada pointed out someone in Qatar is indeed above the law:

Actually the Emir is. By definition.

Though press freedom is guaranteed to a certain extent in Qatar's constitution, the Advisory Council in June recommended harsh punishments for Qatar-based journalists who write against the Emir, national security, religion and the Constitution.

But the State Cabinet last week called for a new press and publications law to “keep pace with the demands of the changing times,” stressing the importance of opening up communication between journalists and government officials.

Yesterday, during a forum for media experts held by the Doha Centre for Media Freedom (which has had its share of controversy over press freedom), journalists called for a revamping of the “outdated” law.

Local newspaper Gulf Times reported:

Nasser al-Othman, a former chief editor of Arrayah Arabic daily and a trustee member at the DCMF, called for abolishing the imprisonment clause in the current press law and replacing it with monetary penalties. “I believe that suggestions made at today’s meeting could be useful if taken seriously by lawmakers,” said al-Othman, who was named as the dean of Qatari journalists.

Other journalists wondered at the point of the roundtable, as no government official attended the session.

From the Gulf Times:

Abdullah bin Hamad al-Azaba, a columnist at Al Arab, criticised the absence of a government representative at the meeting, saying that such an absence had turned the discussion into a “dialogue of the deaf”. “I was saddened that HE Sheikh Hamad bin Thamir (the Al Jazeera TV network chairman) was absent while HE Sheikh Jabor bin Yousuf (chief of the official Qatar News Agency) left before the end of our discussion,” he lamented. DCMF deputy director general Mariam al-Khater, who moderated the discussion, said the DCMF is supporting the issuing of a “modern press law” that considers the changes in all fields in Qatar. Al-Khater pledged that the Center would continue its efforts until a new law press law, free from any imprisonment penalties against journalists, is issued.

For now, however, press freedom in Qatar – Al Jazeera notwithstanding – is still a goal to strive towards.

On Qatar Living, Xena, who works in print media, said:

I got here at the start of the paper, everyone was gungho about being in a new country with new possibilities. The atmosphere was electric…Then come the blows – you cannot print anything vaguely opposite to government stances, you can only print press releases, and you are not allowed to change them, bad english or not… Trying to get interviews with people is like trying to reach the US president – impossible – phone call after phone call, lists of questions, approval of questions, wanting to see the story before it goes to print and then frequently changing or retracting statements.

On Here, There and Everywhere, intlexpatr reprinted one man's comments on the typical newspaper formula in Qatar, saying “I almost split my sides, I was laughing so hard.”

Truthful Stranger writes:

Hence you always get the presence of evil (there’s always an Asian gang being deported for doing something dreadful like burglary or selling liquor) page 1, bottom of the page, that covers the Evil In Our Midst; then the sycophantic article about HH who has just made some pithy pronouncement on The Necessity For Mutual Understanding And Education Across The World, page 2; some phony figures about how much more the Pearl property or other investments have increased pages 3 – 5; some baloney about how safe the country is for investment, page 6; then the gushing op-ed about how the best societies in the world are so great because they have been enforcing Islamic values, pages 6 – 8; Qatar Airways wins award for best in-flight hot towels, page 9, and a new order for 500 Airbus aircraft (thanks to the strategic profitability of the airline! ha!) . And not to forget, Gulf Escapes Economic Downturn for the fourth week in a row, page 10 ad infinitum.


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