The first hearing was held today, Wednesday 27 June 2018, at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principle judicial organ of the United Nations, its purpose being to settle legal disputes between States, in accordance with international law. Given the circumstances of the unlawful ‘blockade’ against the State of Qatar, imposed by the UAE, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of Bahrain and Egypt, a claim filed with the ICJ, is the appropriate course of action. It might be appropriate to say that it is in fact long overdue. All attempts to diplomatically resolve the dispute have thus far failed and the unreasonable and unlawful conduct of the four blockading States has effectively left the State of Qatar with no other form of recourse.
Let us be clear. Leaving aside, for a moment, the issue of Qatar’s recent isolation by the four blockading States, and its justification, or otherwise, the demands placed upon Qatar are absurd and quite shocking. It is quite clear that no democratic state could readily capitulate given the consequences for sovereignty, from both a domestic, and foreign perspective. The demands placed upon Qatar is effectively seeking to make it a vassal state. To accede to any such demands would result in such a loss of sovereignty that independence would be all but eroded.
The action brought by the State of Qatar follows a compelling report by two leading international legal experts Professor William Schabas and Professor John Duggan. In that report, the authors stated that the UAE, in particular, was potentially acting in breach of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. It is quite clear that there is a clear case under the Convention. The UAE consistently discriminates against Qataris without any justifiable, or any legal basis. It is a clear discriminatory practice that aims to punish Qataris due to a diplomatic spat between two States. The sole purpose of the action, is to seek to exert pressure upon the Qatari government in an effort to force it to act how the UAE, and the other blockading States, currently demands, once again reiterating its desire to make Qatar a vassal state. This agenda, interestingly, does not simply relate to the stated aim of reducing support for terrorism; it is clear from its demands, that it is being seen as opportunity to further the authoritarian and anti-democratic policies of those other states. Why else would there be demands that Qatar stop all contact with parties forming the political opposition, and to further exemplify the sinister intent, why else would there be a demand that legitimate journalists be silenced, by the closure of numerous media outlets. Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression, are two rights that the authoritarian and autocratic ruler fears more than any other. U.S. President Harry Truman once said that “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives infear.” Whilst the full details of the claim filed by Qatar have not been public, it is an entirely appropriate course of action to seek a ruling from the Court to order that the position should revert to the previous status quo, and thereby protecting Qatari nationals, and Qatari interests.
The UAE acceded to the Convention in 2004, and yet appears willing to ignore it in any event given its actions prior to the position with Qatar, and now these most recent developments.Its actions do violate the provisions of the Convention, and again therefore, it is entirely appropriate to seek challenge such violations through legal means.
Toby Cadman, co-founder of the Guernica Group spoke to TRT World today on the significance of the case and what we should expect over the coming months and weeks. Recently, Toby stated in an interview with a Qatari daily newspaper that change, or a movement for change, is one thing that cannot be tolerated in an authoritarian State, take the blockading States for example; where a voice for change is heard, that voice is silenced through detention, through disappearance, through torture, and through death. The demands made therefore may well be portrayed as a means by which the global ‘War on Terror’ can be furthered and strengthened. However, the reality, is that the rhetoric is merely taking advantage of a convenient situation to further ‘other’ interests. Interests that consolidate power, and ensure that no-one, even sovereign nations, are allowed to offer a dissenting opinion. It has been said that to maintain the moral high ground one must come to the table with clean hands and the accusers in this scenario do not have clean hands. There is a simple solution to what is effectively a stance of aggression. To protect its own sovereignty and its own citizens and to reclaim the moral high ground, the State of Qatar is perfectly entitled to seek legal protection in a court of law and that is precisely what it is now seeking to do.