Document - Qatar: Two activists held incommunicado, in danger

URGENT ACTION

UA: 71/13 Index: MDE 22/005/2013 Qatar Date: 25 March 2013

URGENT ACTION TWO ACTIVISTS HELD INCOMMUNICADO, IN DANGER Two Qatari human rights activists have been held incommunicado since 22 March, putting them at risk of ill-treatment. They are said to be in solitary confinement in the central police headquarters in the capital, Doha. They are prisoners of conscience if they are held solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. Muhammad Issa al-Baker and Mansour bin Rashed al-Matroushi were driving back from a family trip to Mesaieed (also written as Umm Said), 40km south of Doha, when they were stopped at a checkpoint manned by plain-clothed security force personnel. They were taken to Doha’s central police headquarters and have since been denied access to lawyers and family. Reports from within the detention centre indicate that both are being held in solitary confinement. The police have acknowledged to the men’s lawyers that they are detaining them, but have not provided reasons for doing so. They say they did not make the arrests, raising the question of whether the intelligence agency State Security, whose officers often operate in plain clothes, did so. The office of the General Prosecutor told the lawyers it had no information about the arrests.

Muhammad Issa al-Baker and Mansour bin Rashed al-Matroushi were among 150 activists who submitted a letter to the Qatari interior ministry on 28 January asking for permission to organize a peaceful demonstration in front of the French Embassy in Doha to highlight their objections to the French military intervention in Mali. Their request was denied, so the activists instead submitted a letter to the French Embassy on 6 February. After that, according to local sources, officials from unspecified security forces called them repeatedly, asking them about the letter and, more generally, about their activism, and requesting that they report for questioning. The activists refused to do so, saying they had been given no legal basis for the request, such as an arrest warrant or a formal summons.

Lawyers who have seen the letter, which might have been what prompted their detention, have told Amnesty International that the letter does not violate any law or incite hatred or violence. Both activists have over 10 years of experience in human rights activism in Qatar. Muhammad Issa al-Baker is an active member of the Swiss- registered Qatari human rights NGO Adel Organization for Human Rights.

Please write immediately in Arabic, English or your own language: ν Urging the authorities to disclose the reasons for the arrest of Muhammad Issa al-Baker and Mansour bin Rashed al-Matroushi, and to ensure that they are protected from ill-treatment and given, without delay, regular access to their families, lawyers of their own choosing and any medical attention they may require; ν Calling for the two men to be released immediately and unconditionally if they are being held solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 6 MAY 2013 TO: Minister of Interior Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid Al Thani Ministry of the Interior PO Box 920 Doha, State of Qatar Fax: +974 4432 2927 Email: info@moi.gov.qa

Salutation: Your Excellency Attorney General Dr Ali bin Fetais Al Marri PO Box 705 Doha, State of Qatar Fax: +974 4484 3211 Email: info@pp.gov.qa Salutation: Your Excellency

And copies to: Head of state (Amir of Qatar) Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani PO Box 923 Doha, State of Qatar Fax: +974 4436 1212

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

URGENT ACTION TWO ACTIVISTS HELD INCOMMUNICADO, IN DANGER

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION Freedom of expression is strictly controlled in Qatar, and the press often exercises self-censorship. The right to freedom of expression is further threatened by the 2004 Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism, whose provisions risk criminalizing legitimate activities. The Qatari government acceded to this convention in May 2008.

Since 2011, the State Security, which runs its own detention facilities, has detained a number of people, some of them for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Most of those detained by State Security have reported torture and other ill-treatment during periods of detention prior to charge or trial, particularly during periods of incommunicado detention.

Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami (also known as Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb) was arrested by State Security on 16 November 2011 in Doha, and charged with “inciting to overthrow the ruling system” and “insulting the Amir”. He had presented himself to State Security when summoned, and immediately been arrested. He was detained incommunicado for months before he was allowed family visits. Local activists believe that the real reason for his arrest was his 2011 work “the Jasmine Poem”, which he wrote during the wave of protests throughout the Arab world that began in December 2010. The poem criticized Gulf states and read: “we are all Tunisia in the face of the repressive elite”. In November 2012, the Criminal Court in Doha sentenced him to life in prison. Some observers were not allowed to enter the court, and Mohammed al-Ajami himself was not present at the sentencing. On 25 February 2013, the Court of Appeal in Doha reduced his sentence to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Names: Muhammad Issa al-Baker, Mansour bin Rashed al-Matroushi Gender m/f: M

UA: 71/13 Index: MDE 22/005/2013 Issue Date: 25 March 2013

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