Government

Political parties and elections

Election billboards advertising the 2007 municipal elections.
Qatar held a constitutional referendum in 2003, which was overwhelmingly supported. The first municipal elections with men and women voters and candidates were held in 2007 and 2011. The first legislative election, for two thirds of the legislative council’s 45 seats, were planned for 2016. In June 2016 they were effectively postponed to at least 2019.

Suffrage is currently limited to municipal elections and two thirds of the seats in the legislative council, with the voting age set at 18. Expatriate residents are excluded, as are the vast number of residents who are prevented from applying for citizenship. The elected Municipal Council has no executive powers but may offer advice to the Minister.

Ministries

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
Minister of Defense
Minister of the Interior
Ministry of Public Health
Ministry of Energy and Industry
Ministry of Municipal and Urban Planning
Ministry of Environment
Ministry of Finance
Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage
Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs
Ministry of Education and Higher Education
Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs
Amiri Diwan – Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Thani
Investment Promotion Department
Supreme Council for Family Affairs
Supreme Judiciary Council
Public Prosecution
Qatar News Agency – replaced the Minister of Information

Legal system

Sharia law is the main source of Qatari legislation according to Qatar’s Constitution. Sharia law is applied to laws pertaining to family law, inheritance, and several criminal acts (including adultery, robbery and murder). In some cases in Sharia-based family courts, a female’s testimony is worth half a man’s and in some cases a female witness is not accepted at all. Codified family law was introduced in 2006. In practice, Qatar’s legal system is a mixture of civil law and Islamic law.

Flogging is used in Qatar as a punishment for alcohol consumption or illicit sexual relations. Article 88 of Qatar’s criminal code declares the punishment for adultery is 100 lashes. Adultery is punishable by death when a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man are involved. In 2006, a Filipino woman was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery. In 2010, at least 18 people (mostly foreign nationals) were sentenced to flogging of between 40 and 100 lashes for offences related to “illicit sexual relations” or alcohol consumption In 2011, at least 21 people (mostly foreign nationals) were sentenced to floggings of between 30 and 100 lashes for offences related to “illicit sexual relations” or alcohol consumption.In 2012, six expatriates were sentenced to floggings of either 40 or 100 lashes.Only Muslims considered medically fit were liable to have such sentences carried out. It is unknown if the sentences were implemented. More recently in April 2013, a Muslim expatriate was sentenced to 40 lashes for alcohol consumption.In June 2014, a Muslim expatriate was sentenced to 40 lashes for consuming alcohol and driving under the influence.Judicial corporal punishment is common in Qatar due to the Hanbali interpretation of Sharia Law.

Stoning is a legal punishment in Qatar. Apostasy is a crime punishable by the death penalty in Qatar. Blasphemy is punishable by up to seven years in prison and proselytizing can be punished by up to 10 years in prison. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by the death penalty for Muslims.

Alcohol

Alcohol consumption is partially legal in Qatar, some five-star luxury hotels are allowed to sell alcohol to their non-Muslim customers. Muslims are not allowed to consume alcohol in Qatar and Muslims caught consuming alcohol are liable to flogging or deportation. Non-Muslim expatriates can obtain a permit to purchase alcohol for personal consumption. The Qatar Distribution Company (a subsidiary of Qatar Airways) is permitted to import alcohol and pork; it operates the one and only liquor store in the country, which also sells pork to holders of liquor licences. Qatari officials have also indicated a willingness to allow alcohol in “fan zones” at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Until recently, restaurants on the Pearl-Qatar (a man-made island near Doha) were allowed to serve alcoholic drinks. In December 2011, however, restaurants on the Pearl were told to stop selling alcohol. No explanation was given for the ban. Speculation about the reason includes the government’s desire to project a more pious image in advance of the country’s first election of a royal advisory body and rumours of a financial dispute between the government and the resort’s developers.

Piety

In 2014, Qatar launched a modesty campaign to remind tourists of the modest dress code. Female tourists are advised not to wear leggings, miniskirts, sleeveless dresses and short or tight clothing in public. Men are advised against wearing only shorts and singlets.

As of 2014, certain provisions of the Qatari Criminal Code allows punishments such as flogging and stoning to be imposed as criminal sanctions. The UN Committee Against Torture found that these practices constituted a breach of the obligations imposed by the UN Convention Against Torture. Qatar retains the death penalty, mainly for threats against national security.

Workers

Under the provisions of Qatar’s sponsorship law, sponsors have the unilateral power to cancel workers’ residency permits, deny workers’ ability to change employers, report a worker as “absconded” to police authorities, and deny permission to leave the country. As a result, sponsors may restrict workers’ movements and workers may be afraid to report abuses or claim their rights.According to the ITUC, the visa sponsorship system allows the exaction of forced labour by making it difficult for a migrant worker to leave an abusive employer or travel overseas without permission. Qatar also does not maintain wage standards for its immigrant labour. Qatar commissioned international law firm DLA Piper to produce a report investigating the immigrant labour system. In May 2014 DLA Piper released over 60 recommendations for reforming the kafala system including the abolition of exit visas and the introduction of a minimum wage which Qatar has pledged to implement.

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