The economic blockade imposed by the United Arab Emirates and its allies against Qatar amounts to racial discrimination. This was what the United Nations’ top court pronounced in its provisional ruling in what is likely to be a big win for Qatar.
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, had imposed a land, sea, and air blockade against Qatar and had severed diplomatic ties in what was possibly the worst diplomatic dispute in the Gulf in decades. As a means to remedy the situation, Qatar had filed a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing the UAE of violating international laws by expelling thousands of Qataris, many of whom have family or own property in the UAE, and closing UAE’s airspace and seaports to Qatar.
Qatar alleged, the blockade violated the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), including the discrimination on the basis of nationality, which significantly was signed by both Qatar and the UAE. Incidentally, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain are not signatories of the CERD convention.
In its ruling the ICJ ordered that Qatari families affected by the UAE measures must be reunited, imposing a measure before The Hague-based court hears in full the discrimination case. The ruling also said, the UAE should allow Qatari students to complete their studies in the UAE or retain their records of their studies so that they can continue their education elsewhere. The ruling also said, Qataris should be allowed access to judicial services in the UAE.
“Many Qataris residing in the UAE appeared to have been forced to leave their place of residence without the possibility of return,” said the judges in reference to the blockade. “There is an imminent risk that the measures adopted by the UAE could lead to irreparable prejudice to the rights invoked by Qatar.”
“This is only the first step on a long road to defend our rights, but at the same time this sends an early strong signal that there will be no tolerance shown to countries that take arbitrary measures against Qataris,” state news agency QNA quoted her as saying.
According to Tom Cadman, an international human rights lawyer, the ICJ ruling is a “a breakthrough for Qatar”.
“It’s a very important decision that establishes the illegality of the blockade, and that the UAE’s actions are in breach of an international convention which they signed up to,” said Cadman. “The difficulty is if the UAE refuses to implement a decision of the ICJ … they (Qatar) would be advised to take it to the UN Security Council for failure to implement a decision … which they would be entitled to do – and I think that the diplomatic pressure put on the UAE would be so intense.”
According to Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee, the blockade has affected about 13,000 people.