05/12/2005, 00.00
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Government agency denounces human rights violations in Qatar

Doha (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Prolonged detentions, mistreatment of foreign workers and abuses against women and children are but a the most obvious examples of human rights violation cited in the first annual report by Qatar's National Human Rights Committee.

Set up in 2003 to "consolidate the country's march towards democracy", the Committee received 145 complaints in 2004, 20 of these involving detentions.

Its report points to "widespread use of protective custody [which turns] the measure [. . .] into a harsh penalty" without trial.

It expresses concern over lengthy trials, noting their negative impact "especially on foreign workers who wind up being banned from travel and deprived of the right to work or change jobs."

The Committee received a total of 24 work-related complaints, some dealing with the mistreatment of foreign workers by employers, especially domestic help.

In some cases workers did not receive their wages for long periods of time, up to six months sometimes, forcing them to live in tough conditions in places that fall short of the requirements for a decent life".

International human rights group have long criticised oil-rich Gulf states like Qatar for abusing hundreds of thousands of unskilled, mainly Asian labourers who take low-paying jobs local residents won't consider and are often left at the mercy of employers in what can be described as slave-like conditions.
The report also said there was concern about violence against women and children, adding that social conventions often prevented them from complaining about abuse.
"Violence against women and children comes in different ways, which include psychological torture, beatings, locking up, or physical and sexual abuse by husbands, custodians or relatives," it said.
The committee noted that laws fall short of addressing the problem of domestic violence and said that there are no centres for women or children in crisis.
The committee was especially worried about the use of children as jockeys in immensely popular camel races. Children—sometimes as young as four—are favoured as jockeys because they are light. However, they risk dangerous falls or trampling from riding bareback or strapped to the camels' backs.



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