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Rights group slams Gulf states for ‘toying’ with people in Qatar row

© Stringer, AFP | Passengers wait to check-in at the Hamad International Airport in Doha on June 7, 2017.

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-06-11

Amnesty International said on Saturday that the Gulf states opposed to Qatar were "toying" with thousands of ordinary individuals after Saudi Arabia and its allies cut ties with the emirate over its alleged support to terrorism.

Amnesty International warned that the sea and land blockade and other "drastic" measures against Qatar were taking their toll on families, workers and students.

"Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are toying with the lives of thousands of Gulf residents as part of their dispute with Qatar, splitting up families and destroying people's livelihoods and education," the London-based watchdog said.

It noted that Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had warned of harsh punishment, including up to 15 years in jail, if people "dare to criticise these measures" against Qatar.

The measures include banning Qatar Airways from airspace and closing Qatar's only land border with Saudi Arabia. The Arab states have also ordered Qataris out within 14 days.

"These drastic measures are already having a brutal effect, splitting children from parents and husbands from wives," said Amnesty after its researchers interviewed dozens of people affected by the crisis.

"People from across the region... risk losing jobs and having their education disrupted."

Amnesty, quoting Qatar's National Human Rights Committee, said more than 11,000 nationals of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE live in Qatar, while many Qataris are residents of the three other Gulf states.

Qatar said on Sunday that citizens of states that have cut ties with the emirate will be allowed to stay in the country despite measures against its own nationals.

Saudi-Iranian rivalry in the Gulf

The blockade is widely seen as a way to punish Qatar for its good relations with Tehran, as part of the larger struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Tehran reacted by showing its support for the emirate, sending five planes of food to Qatar.

"So far five planes carrying perishable food items such as fruit and vegetables have been sent to Qatar, each carrying around 90 tonnes of cargo, while another plane will be sent today," Iran Air spokesman Shahrokh Noushabadi told AFP news agency on Sunday.

"We will continue deliveries as long as there is demand" from Qatar, Noushabadi added, without mentioning if these deliveries were exports or aid.

Three ships loaded with 350 tonnes of food were also set to leave an Iranian port for Qatar, the Tasnim News Agency quoted a local official as saying.

Qatar hires former US attorney general

Qatar has denied Saudi accusations and dispatched Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani on a diplomatic offensive to enlist support from abroad.

Russia called Saturday for dialogue to resolve a dispute between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours, as Riyadh and its allies welcomed US President Donald Trump's demand that Doha stop funding extremist groups.

Qatari authorities also hired John Ashcroft, the US attorney general during the September 11 attacks, in a bid to rebut accusations from US President Donald Trump and its Arab neighbours that it supports terrorism.

Qatar will pay the Ashcroft Law Firm $2.5m (€2.2m) for a 90-day period as the country seeks to confirm its efforts to fight global terrorism and comply with financial regulations including US Treasury rules, according to a Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, filing on Friday with the Justice Department.

The Ashcroft Law Firm was hired to do a compliance and regulatory view of Qatar’s anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing framework, Ashcroft partner Michael Sullivan said in an email.

“Qatar is confident that the review and analysis will confirm that Qatar has significant measures in place to prevent and detect efforts to launder funds and/or to use its financial systems to finance terrorist organisations,” he said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2017-06-11

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