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UN rights chief 'alarmed' by impact of Gulf crisis

© AFP/File | Saudi Arabia and its allies cut ties with Qatar over what they say is the emirate's financing of extremist groups and its ties to Iran

GENEVA (AFP) - 

The UN human rights chief said Wednesday he was alarmed by the possible impact of the diplomatic isolation of Qatar, warning it could lead to widespread suffering among ordinary people.

"I am alarmed about the possible impact on many people's human rights in the wake of the decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain to cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

"It is becoming clear that the measures being adopted are overly broad in scope and implementation," he added.

His comments came after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt abruptly severed all ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting "terrorism" -- allegations Doha strongly rejects.

Zeid warned Wednesday that the move had "the potential to seriously disrupt the lives of thousands of women, children and men, simply because they belong to one of the nationalities involved in the dispute."

"We are receiving reports that specific individuals have already been summarily instructed to leave the country they are residing in, or have been ordered to return home by their own government," he said.

He warned that mix-nationality couples and their children, as well as people with jobs or businesses based in opposing states and students studying abroad would likely be "badly affected".

"I am also extremely troubled to hear that the UAE and Bahrain are threatening to jail and fine people who express sympathy for Qatar or opposition to their own governments' actions," he said.

This, he warned, "would appear to be a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression or opinion."

Zeid urged all the countries involved to quickly resolve their dispute through dialogue and to "refrain from any actions that could affect the well-being, health, employment and integrity of their inhabitants."

© 2017 AFP