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UN rights expert urges Qatar to reform justice system

The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers [official profile] on Monday urged [press release] Qatar [BBC backgrounder] to consolidate its justice system and address its shortcomings. Gbrelia Knaul, the current Special Rapporteur, praised Qatar's achievements over the past decade in establishing an independent judiciary, but criticized the justice system there for failing to uphold basic human rights. In particular, Knaul expressed concern over issues regarding access to justice in Qatar for women, migrants and domestic workers. Additionally, Knaul called for more transparency and less executive involvement in the judiciary, especially in high profile cases. Knaul based her findings after visiting the country this month and meeting with senior government officials, judges and representatives of civil society.

Qatar has faced criticism regarding its approach to basic human rights and free expression in the past. In October the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] criticized [JURIST report] the harsh prison sentence for a poet in Qatar accused of insulting the country's national symbols. In 2012 Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the ruler of Qatar not to approve a proposed media law, which was meant to censor rather than promote free press. In 2011 the OHCHR condemned [JURIST report] Qatar's extradition of a rape victim back to her home country of Libya.

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