Gulf states ‘rebuff bid to ease humanitarian impact’

Rights body deplores lack of response to pleas to spare Gulf citizens humanitarian, social and economic effects of rift.

Ali bin Smaikh also said Qataris heading to the Hajj pilgrimage are also facing obstacles [AFP]

Doha, Qatar  The head of Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) says his efforts to ease the humanitarian impact of the blockade on Qatari and other citizens have been rebuffed by human-rights groups in neighbouring Arab Gulf states.

Ali bin Smaikh al-Marri, the NHRC chairman, disclosed in Doha on Wednesday that he had sent letters to his counterparts in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain asking them to appeal to their governments to spare Gulf citizens the humanitarian, social and economic consequences of the dispute.

“We either got no response or have been attacked by our colleagues working on human-rights issues in the blockading nations,” he said.

READ MORE: Saudi-led blockade on Qatar ‘breaking up families’

He said the human-rights sections in the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab Parliament and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have ignored his plea.

Founded in 2002, the NHRC is the only organisation in the GCC officially recognised by its own government and internationally. Other GCC nations have only NGOs dealing with human rights issues.

Ali bin Smaikh also said that the Saudi government was putting obstacles against Qatari citizens who wished to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage this year despite its statement to the contrary.

“The Saudi government is inciting its citizens against Qataris. The government of Saudi Arabia should have a clear and open stance with regards to permitting Qataris to perform the Hajj in Mecca this year without any hindrance,” he said.

Demand for compensation

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt, along with several other countries, severed ties with Qatar last June, claiming that Doha was funding banned armed groups. Qatar strongly rejects these charges.

Ali bin Smaikh also outlined his international efforts to explain the humanitarian impact of the blockade to various UN, European and American parliamentarian and human rights groups.

Fishermen in Qatar affected by Gulf rift

“There was great interest and positive responses in the Western capitals we visited,” he said.

He said his organisations would be taking legal action against the blockading countries on behalf of citizens who filed official complaints seeking financial and economic redress.

The NHRC estimated that 8,254 Saudi, 784 Emirati, and 2,349 Bahraini citizens lived in Qatar.

All of them were forced to leave their jobs or face punishment and legal consequences by their governments, he said.

While Qatar has not asked Saudi, Emirati or Bahraini citizens to leave Doha, the three countries demanded Qatari nationals leave as they announced a series of punishing measures.

Ali bin Smaikh, however, urged the Qatari government to work on securing adequate compensation from the blockading countries for Qatari citizens who have paid a high social and economic cost.

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Source: Al Jazeera