Independence of judges and lawyers, and lack of transparency remain a matter of concern to Qatar’s judicial system: UN Special Rapporteur
Citing her preliminary observations on Qatar’s judiciary system, during an official visit to the country that ended today, Gabriel Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur, brought into focus “reports of interference of the executive in the work of the judiciary, particularly in cases involving high level persons”. This was mainly due to the absence of constitutional provisions relating to the separation of powers.
Also, the provision that allows for dismissal of judges on vague grounds relating to public interest, questions the security of the tenure that judges have. In fact, non-Qatari judges face a graver threat to security, as their tenure is not guaranteed in the same way as national judges due to the temporary contracts’ they sign.
Another key point the UN Special Rapporteur highlighted was the visible lack of transparency during both the investigation phase and court proceedings. “Lawyers also seem to be confronted with serious difficulties in accessing information, in particular during the investigation phase in the criminal justice system,” she said.[boxify cols_use =”1″ cols =”2″ position =”right” order =”none” box_spacing =”10″ padding =”10″ background_color =”#3c3c3c” border_style =”solid” ]
Key Recommendations include:
- Establish and officially recognise an independent bar association that oversees the process of admitting candidates to the legal profession, provides for a uniform code of ethics and conduct, and enforces disciplinary measures, including disbarment.
- Ensure proper functioning of the Constitutional Court, by providing all the resources and guarantees necessary for its full independence and proper administration.
- Promote the participation of women in the justice system and develop gender-tailored procedures, policies and practices to promote equal access to justice.
- Ensure that court fees and fees requested for technical experts are systematically waived for migrant workers.
- Adopt modern technology tools and record all hearings in order to ensure the proper, adequate and transparent administration of justice. [/boxify]
Moreover, concerned parties of a case are never communicated of what transpired in court. Referring to the Villaggio fire case hearings, the “independent expert report carried out to establish the facts was never communicated in its entirety to the parties,” she said expressing concern. The same case also witnessed endless delays in judicial proceedings and postponement of hearings without clear and fair grounds, which is unacceptable,” she added. “I was even told that one excuse used for the absence of one defendant was that he was travelling, even though a travel ban has been issued by the judge of the appeal court. Such disregard for a judicial decision is a great source of concern.”
She also pointed out the discriminatory attitude that non-Qataris faced by the police, prosecutors and judges.
The problem is further aggravated when it comes to migrant or domestic workers who are burdened with court fees and expert fees if they have to address their grievances in court. “Such fees have to be urgently lifted and all judges should enforce the clause that allows them to waive expert fees.”
For cases involving non-Arabic speakers, it was also imperative to provide quality interpretation and translation at all stages of legal proceedings. “Translations and interpretation in court cases involving non-Arabic speakers, while prescribed by the law, are not always provided in practice or that the quality is poor.”