Qatar takes UAE to UN’s highest court over blockade

Move comes a year after the UAE, along with Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic and trade ties with Doha.

Doha Skyline Reuters 2017
Qatar said the UAE had enacted a series of measures that discriminate against Qataris [Reuters]

The government of Qatar is taking the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) over what it described as human rights violations, according to the official Qatar News Agency (QNA). 

The move on Monday comes a year after the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting “terrorism”.

Doha has repeatedly rejected the allegations as “baseless”. 

“As set forth in detail in Qatar’s application to the International Court, the UAE led these actions, which have had a devastating effect on the human rights of Qataris and residents of Qatar,” the government said in a statement on Monday.

The ICJ is the UN’s highest judicial organ. 

UAE officials also participated in a full-scale online media campaign against Qatar and Qataris, directly inciting hatred against the Gulf nation, QNA said. 

“The unlawful measures imposed by UAE have torn apart families, with parents being separated from children and husbands from wives. The families deserve to be reunited,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said.  

Abu Dhabi’s attacks on fundamental freedoms were described in a December 2017 report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) as part of a “widespread defamation and hatred campaign against Qatar”.

The Qatari government said the UAE had enacted a series of measures that discriminate against Qataris, including expelling them from the UAE, prohibiting them from entering or passing through the UAE, ordering UAE nationals to leave Qatar, and closing UAE airspace and seaports to Qatar.

Qatar said it believed the actions were in violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) – including discrimination on the basis of nationality – of which the UAE and Qatar are both signatories.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt are not signatories of the CERD.

Qatar requested that the court order the UAE to take steps to comply with its obligations under the CERD, ceasing and revoking the measures currently applied and restoring the rights of Qataris.

It also requested that the UAE makes reparations, including compensation, but gave no details of the amount it might be seeking.

Toby Cadman, an international human rights lawyer, told Al Jazeera that while Qatar has taken a first step in taking the issue to the ICJ, the process is slow and will likely take months. 

“The UN office of the high commissioner for human rights has acknowledged that a complaint has been filed against the UAE so there will ordinarily be a stage of initiating a period of mediation,” Cadman said. 

“But considering that all other forms of diplomacy have failed, it is unlikely that the UAE or any of the other states concerned would engage in that process.

“What we’re likely to see over the coming months are proceedings in the ICJ assuming the court accepts jurisdiction to deal with this which it is fully expected to do.”