Qatar Argues Case for UAE Bias in Top UN Court

Members of the delegation of Qatar on the first day of the hearings Tuesday in the International Court of Justice. (UN Photo/ICJ-CIJ/Frank van Beek.)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) – The United Arab Emirates and Qatar returned to the International Court of Justice on Wednesday as representatives for Doha made their argument that the government in Abu Dhabi discriminates against Qatari citizens living in the UAE.

Qatar’s opening statement was given by Mohammed Abdulaziz Al-Khulaifi, the country’s agent at The Hague-based ICJ, the United Nations’ highest court. He called the arguments made the previous day by UAE representatives “inconsistent, incoherent and without a doubt unjustified.”

The case dates back to 2017, when the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, the Maldives and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed a land, sea and air blockade on the country over its alleged support for terrorists groups.

Nearly a year after the initial blockade and with no resolution in sight, Qatar filed suit against the UAE in the ICJ. The UAE is the only country among the nations boycotting Qatar that is a party to the ICJ.

Qatar and the UAE are both parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the government in Doha claims Abu Dhabi is fostering racial hatred.  

After an initial review of the case last July, the ICJ ruled that families separated during the dispute should be reunited, students affected should be allowed to continue their studies or be supported in transferring elsewhere, and Qatari citizens in the UAE should be granted access to legal aid.

The UAE is frequently allied with Saudi Arabia and the conflicts between the UAE and Qatar are sometimes referred to as a proxy war in the true conflict between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The current emir, or leader, of Qatar is Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who is the son of Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The father seized power in a 1995 and one of the main objectives of his international relations policies was to dissociate the country from Saudi Arabia, which had long held sway over Qatar.  

To do this, he first established diplomatic relations with the then-Soviet Union, which was a longtime adversary of Saudi Arabia, and then later aligned Qatar with Iran. In 1996, Qatar launched Al Jazeera, a state-funded global news organization.

In 2002, Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador from Qatar in a move widely seen as an attempt to rein in its neighbor. The ambassador returned in 2008 after assurances that Al Jazeera would limit negative coverage of the country, but the outbreak of the Arab Spring in 2011 led to worsening relations. The two countries frequently supported opposing factions during the various civilian uprisings, including in Tunisia and Egypt.

In June 2017, Emir Al Thani gave a speech in which he allegedly declared support for Iran and Hamas. As a result, the UAE and the other nations cut ties with Qatar. However, Qatar alleges that these statements were never made and, instead, claims that the website of the state-run Qatar News Agency was hacked by Russian hackers, who posted fake statements on the site.

Vaughan Lowe, who followed Al-Khulaifi’s opening statements, outlined the Qatari objections to the arguments the UAE had made on Tuesday, which he called “bafflingly pointless”.

Lowe claimed Qatar had informed the UAE that a website created by Abu Dhabi to assist Qataris in applying for visas to enter and live in the UAE was dangerous and that the UAE had not fixed it. Prior to June 2017, Qataris did not need a visa to enter the UAE.

He told the judges of the ICJ that the UAE’s argument that Qatar was pursuing other legal avenues for redress was not relevant.

“There is nothing wrong with seeking other solutions while there is a case before the court,” Lowe said.

The Qatari delegation continued by addressing the request by the UAE for the implementation of provisional measures to prevent Qatar from “further aggravating or extending the dispute.”

Attorney David W. Rivkin of the international law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, on behalf of Qatar, argued the proposed measures were not related to the merits of the case and called the Emirati arguments “hopelessly contradictory.”

Catherine Amirfar, another Debevoise & Plimpton attorney, argued before the court that the UAE had supported hackers in posting the false information to Qatar News Agency, which kicked off the row between the two nations.

Amirfar, after being asked to slow down by the president of the court because the interpreters couldn’t keep up with her rapid pace, went on to outline the specific issues with the website in question, telling the ICJ judges that it lacked a security certificate which caused it to be blocked in Qatar. On Tuesday, the UAE had argued that Qatar was creating the problems for its own citizens by blocking the website.

She further argued that Al Jazeera is free to report on news, as any news agency is, and that the organization should not be viewed as an apparatus of the state.

The final round of oral arguments was made by Dr. Pierre Klein, who ended the afternoon in French, as had the UAE representative the day before.

Both countries will have the opportunity to make final arguments Thursday.

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