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Qatar: Quash life sentences for activists who protested discriminatory election law

Responding to the news that a Qatar court sentenced three activists, including the lawyers Hazza and Rashed Ali Hazza Salem Abu Shurayda, to life in prison on 10 May for protesting against a discriminatory election law, and sentenced one other to 15 years in prison, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

“The sentencing of Hazza and Rashed Ali Hazza Salem Abu Shurayda — and Mohammed Rashed Hassan Nasser al-Ajami in absentia — to life in prison is extremely concerning and it sends a chilling message to the activist community that dissenting views will not be tolerated.

“In a closed-door trial, the court sentenced these four activists to appalling prison terms on bogus charges of inciting violence, when they had simply exercised their right to peaceful protest. Their convictions and sentences must be quashed.

“It is baffling that the Qatari authorities would punish these men while attempting to improve their human rights reputation before the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Instead of locking away state critics, the authorities must respect the basic and inalienable rights of all of their residents. They should also heed the protesters’ call to amend the country’s discriminatory electoral laws.”

Background

After the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani ratified Law No. 6, which covers elections to the Shura Council, on 29 July 2021, protests erupted near Doha on 7 August 2021. The demonstrators expressed frustration at the law, which discriminates against members of the Al Murra tribe by excluding thousands of them from voting or running in the election. The Al Murra tribe have long suffered discrimination across a range of basic rights, including access to education, employment and health care.

On May 10, the Qatari Criminal Court of First Instance convicted the four men, two of them in absentia, on charges related to contesting laws ratified by the Emir, “threatening” the Emir on social media, compromising the independence of the state, organizing unauthorized public meetings, and “violating” social values online.