By holding the meeting in Qatar, the WTO would send a chilling message to the international community regarding its respect for human rights and transparency. Freedom of assembly in Qatar is nonexistent, and the right to freedom of association is sharply circumscribed.
By holding the meeting in Qatar, the WTO would send a chilling message to the international community regarding its respect for human rights and transparency. Freedom of assembly in Qatar is nonexistent, and the right to freedom of association is sharply circumscribed. The U.S. State Department, in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices published in February 2000, noted that Qatar "does not allow political demonstrations." The report further noted that Qatar "severely limits freedom of association" and "does not allow political parties or membership in international professional organizations critical of the Government or of any other Arab government." It also reported that security forces monitor the activities of private social, sports, trade, professional, and cultural societies.
There are other issues of concern as well. Qatar is not a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the international treaty that guarantees basic freedoms of expression, assembly and association and due process protections. Qatar also is not a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, nor to any other bilateral or multilateral consular accord, which raises most serious issues in cases of detention of foreign nationals.
The decision to meet in Qatar would look like an effort by the WTO to avoid the noisy demonstrations of the past year by picking a country that bans demonstrations. We are sure you will agree that the WTO should be striving to build the global economy on a foundation of respect for such basic human rights--not hiding behind governments that systematically violate those rights.
In remarks to the press on Tuesday, WTO Director-General Mike Moore said that non-governmental organizations previously accredited by the WTO would have access to Qatar, and that journalists "would be splendidly looked after," but he made no pledge about the right to peaceful assembly. His assurances are irrelevant for representatives of NGOs not formally accredited by the WTO but who want to make their voices heard during the meeting. Whether the WTO agrees with these groups or not, it should make sure that their right to be heard is respected.
Because your office is responsible for representing the United States at the WTO, we are looking to you to do your utmost to see that the WTO takes seriously its responsibility to promote and protect basic human rights such as freedom of assembly. We look forward to your cooperation in forcefully raising this important issue at the WTO General Council meeting on Tuesday.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.