The State of Qatar has filed a case against UAE over human rights violations in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 12th June.
The action comes after a year-long blockade by Emirati and Arab states against Qatar and its citizens over alleged sponsorship of terrorism.
The small nation of Qatar is located on the Qatar Peninsula sharing its only land border with Saudi Arabia. Qatar has a thriving economy which has sustained high levels of human development, highest amongst the Arab states, owing to their extensive oil and natural gas reserves.
Following Ottoman rule, Qatar became a British protectorate in the early 20th century until gaining independence in 1971. Qatar has been ruled by the House of Thani since the early 19th century. During the Arab Spring, Qatar moved away from its traditional foreign policy role as diplomatic mediator to embrace the wave of revolutionary movements.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut all ties with Qatar in June 2017. The countries alleged that Qatar sponsors terrorist outfits – a charge that Qatar has denied. Because of the impasse, Qatar’s sea links, air links, and road links have been cut off. Kuwait and USA have attempted to act as mediators in the crisis, but to no avail.
Qatar filed a legal complaint with the World Trade Organization challenging the trade boycott initiated by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates in 2017. It has however struggled to ensure that its economy does not collapse. According to Moody’s, Qatar used $38.5 billion of its reserve to support the economy since the impasse. Turkey and Iran have become Qatar’s main partners in trade after the blockade was imposed. The region’s exports of oil and gas have continued without any interruptions.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principle judicial organ of the United Nations. The idea for the creation of an international court to arbitrate international disputes first arose during the various conferences that produced the Hague Conventions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The court itself has no powers of enforcement, but according to article 94 of the UN Charter, the other party may recourse to the Security Council for any recommendations.
Qatar and UAE are signatories of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). UAE expelled all Qataris from UAE, banned future entry of Qataris and closed airspace and ports to the movement of Qatari originating vessels. Qatar has deemed this act as a gross violation of human rights as many families have been split and others have faced tumultuous times as the blockade had an adverse effect on the economy. However, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain are not signatories to CERD and, therefore, cannot be taken to court for violation of the same.
Qatar has requested UAE to comply with international legislation. They have also requested for compensation for damages incurred.
A year since the crisis began, Qatar's National Human Rights Committee released a report claiming more than 4,000 human rights abuses had been committed against Qataris by the Saudi-led alliance in the past year. Qataris have been arbitrarily arrested and denied freedom of movement. Land and other assets have been seized.
The small nation has also faced struggles to acquire necessary medication and food supplies in the aftermath. Iran and Turkey had pledged to send basic requirements for the country to cope. Moreover, the alliance with Iran would give the two nations the capacity to have a serious effect on world oil prices and supply as they own the first and third largest supply of oil and natural gas.
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.
Our assessment is that the move by Qatar to utilize international jurisprudence will assist the country in receiving justice for the blockade, however, the process will take years. As Qatar has been leaning towards self-sufficiency, arrangements will be made with countries outside the Arab world to improve trade and commerce. As Saudi Arabia is close to USA, Qatar will look to strengthen ties with China and Russia which may assist them if the issue reaches the Security Council.