The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Qatar is a State Party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), having acceded in 2018. Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assembly, providing that:
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Qatar is not a party to the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which allows individuals to petition the Human Rights Committee if they believe the State has violated their human rights as protected under the Covenant.
At regional level, Qatar is a State Party to the 2004 Arab Charter of Human Rights. Under Article 24(6) of the Charter, every citizen has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Article 44 of the 2004 Constitution of Qatar provides that: "The right of the citizens to assemble is guaranteed in accordance with the provisions of the law."
Law No. 18 of 2004 on Public Meetings and Demonstration is the primary national legislation governing assembly in Qatar. The Law requires that organisers obtain authorisation for an assembly from the Director General of Public Security within the Ministry of Interior. The request must be made at least seven days in advance.
The Legal Framework on Use of Force During Assemblies
The Use of Force
International Legal Rules
Under international law, the duty on the State and its law enforcement agencies is to facilitate the enjoyment of the right of peaceful assembly. According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials:
In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.
All force used by police and other law enforcement agencies must be necessary for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and proportionate to that purpose.
Under Article 10 of the 2004 Law on Public Meetings and Demonstration, the police shall not resort to the use of force to disperse the public meeting except upon the approval of the Minister of Interior or his designated representative, and within such limits necessary for that purpose.
Law No. 17 of 2002 on the Protection of the Community is said to provide law enforcement officials practical exemption from the prohibition of arbitrary arrest and detention.
The Use of Firearms
International Legal Rules
According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles, in the dispersal of violent assemblies, a law enforcement official may only use a firearm against a specific individual where this is necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life.
Qatar does not have legislation in place restricting the use of firearms by law enforcement officials as international law requires.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
Qatar has not yet come before the Human Rights Committee. In its 2019 Universal Periodic Review under the UN Human Rights Council, Qatar stated that it sought to ensure that the freedom of assembly did not result in violations of national law or threaten public or national security.
Views of Civil Society
According to Freedom House's 2021 report on Qatar:
The constitutional right to freedom of assembly is limited by restrictive laws and does not apply to noncitizens. Organizers of public events must obtain a permit from the Interior Ministry, and protests are rare in practice.
CIVICUS has reported that: "In practice, the right to peaceful assembly is rarely exercised in the country, and in the exceptional circumstances when it has been exercised — such as the migrant workers protest in 2014 — security forces have used excessive force to disperse protests and arrest protestors."