Troubling restrictions on freedom of movement in Qatar

Friday, March 21, 2014

His Excellency Fahad Mohamed Y. Kafoud
Ambassador of the State of Qatar to Canada
Embassy of the State of Qatar
150 Metcalfe Street, 8th Floor
Ottawa, ON K2P 1P1

Dear Ambassador:

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE is troubled by the ongoing detainment of Mahmoud Bouneb, a Canadian-Tunisian Media Executive and journalist working in Qatar since 2012. Bouneb moved to Doha in 1999 to help launch the Al-Jazeera Children’s Channel (AJCC) and worked there for eight years before being terminated with about 30 other members of the channel’s senior staff. A travel ban was imposed on several of those employees on September 27, 2011 without official notification or advice of their right to appeal. All travel bans placed on these employees have been lifted with the exception of Bouneb and two other workers.

According to their former employers, the three remaining media workers stand accused of mismanaging approximately QR3.1 million (US$851,460) over eight years. Last year, however, separate investigations by the Qatar National Audit Bureau and accounting firm Ernst & Young cleared the trio of any criminal wrongdoing.

Bouneb currently resides in Doha with his family without any income or appropriate healthcare, and without the ability to seek out other employment. He has faced mistreatment that has had a detrimental impact on his health and family, and has faced attempts to silence him when he has spoken out about these practices.

The right to leave any country is an essential component of the right to free movement, guaranteed under article 27 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, and article 5(ii) of the International Convention Against the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CERD). Qatar is party to both treaties.

CJFE strongly urges the government of Qatar to immediately abolish its current illegal exit visa requirements, which exposes migrant workers to the risk of exploitation and abuse. The exit visa system can prevent foreigners from leaving the country merely on the word of a current or former employer and represents a serious violation of their human rights.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,
Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Douglas George, Ambassador of Canada to Kuwait and Qatar