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FALQS: Qatar’s New Counterterrorism Law

The following is a guest post by George Sadek, a foreign law specialist at the Law Library of Congress who covers Arabic-speaking countries.

Map of Qatar. Central Intelligence Agency, 1995. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, //hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g7580.ct001693.

The Middle East region is a theater for the activities of multiple terrorist groups. Accordingly, countries in the region, especially Arab countries, have adopted various new laws in an effort to combat the problem. In this post, I discuss a new counterterrorism law enacted by the State of Qatar. It is the latest counterterrorism legislation issued by an Arab country.

1. What is the aim of the new law?

On December 27, 2019, the Amir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, issued Law No. 27 of 2019 on Combating Terrorism. The Law is a comprehensive legal instrument aimed at combating terrorism in Qatar and abroad. It enhances the penalties imposed on acts of terror in the Penal Code and classifies any violent acts against a government facility to be acts of terrorism. It also enables the prosecution of Qatari citizens who commit acts of terror or join terrorist groups either abroad or in the country. Finally, it establishes the National Counter Terrorism Committee and the National Sanctions List of terrorist persons and entities.

2.  How does the Law define terrorism?

Law No. 27 of 2019 consists of 42 articles. Article 1 covers various terms and definitions, such as a terrorist crime, a terrorist entity, punishment list, financial assets, freezing of assets, conventional weapons, unconventional weapons, financial institutions, non-government organizations, legal person, and natural person. The Law follows the definitions used by International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism for the terms “terrorism” and “financial assets that belong to terrorist entities or persons.”

The Law defines a terrorist crime as a violent act causing injury and death of people when the purpose of such act is to terrorize a group of people or to obligate a government or an international organization to act or refrain from acting. The Law also defines an act of terror as a violent crime committed against a government facility. (Art. 1.)

The Law defines financial assets that belong to a terrorist entity or person as assets of every kind, whether tangible or intangible, movable or immovable, legal documents or instruments in any form, including electronic or digital, evidencing title to, or interest in, such assets. (Id).

3.  What is the scope of application of the Law?

The provisions of the Law apply to Qatari citizens who commit acts of terrorism inside the country and abroad. (Art. 2(2).)

4.  What are the main crimes and their penalties under the Law?

The law enhances the penalties contained in the Penal Code pertaining to crimes of terrorism. If the sentence for a terrorist offense was previously life imprisonment, the Law increases the punishment to the death penalty. (Art. 3(1).) Likewise, life imprisonment replaces a term of imprisonment of 15 years. (Art. 3(2).) Finally, a penalty of 15 years of imprisonment replaces a term of imprisonment for 10 years. (Art. 3(3).)

Crimes punished by death and life imprisonment

Under the Law, individuals who use the internet in committing or plotting a terrorist act can be punished by death or life imprisonment. (Art. 4 (para. 1).) Life imprisonment also applies to individuals who join terrorist organizations (art. 4 (para. 2)); individuals who supply terrorists with the technology to commit a terrorist act (art. 5); and individuals who coerce someone else to join a terrorist group (art. 6). A person who provides any form of training to others in order to carry out a terrorist crime must be punished by life imprisonment or a term of imprisonment of not less than 15 years. (Art. 8 (para. 1).)

In addition, if a person obtained or possessed an unconventional weapon to carry out a terrorist attack, he or she must be punished by imprisonment for life. (Art. 9 (para. 2).) (The Law defines unconventional weapon as nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons or substances that have the power to kill persons, or to cause dangerous harm to people, environment, and buildings.) Such a person must be punished by death if the attack resulted in deaths. (Art. 9 (para. 3).) Any person who kills a law enforcement officers must be punished by death. (Art. 14 (para. 4).) Life imprisonment applies to a person who kidnaps a law enforcement officer or one of the family members of a law enforcement officer. (Art. 14 (para. 2).)

Crimes punished by a term of imprisonment of 15 years

Any person who uses his managerial position in a non-government organization to entice other individuals to commit a terrorist act must be punished with a term of imprisonment between 10 and 15 years. (Art. 7.) The same penalty applies to any person who enables someone who committed a terrorist crime to escape (art. 10(3)) and to a person who received any training abroad from terrorist entities (art. 11 (para. 3)). If a person uses a conventional weapon (“cold weapons,” firearms, bombs, and C-4) to commit a terrorist act, he or she must be punished by a term of imprisonment between 5 and 15 years. (Art. 9 (para. 1).) Any person who hides weapons that will be used, or have already been used, in a terrorist crime must be punished by a term of imprisonment of between 15 years and life. (Art. 13.)

5.  What are the powers of the Public Prosecution under the Law?

The Public Prosecution has the right to investigate crimes of terrorism by ordering the audio and video surveillance of communications and obtaining access to information systems used by the suspected perpetrators. (Art. 24.) The Public Prosecution may also order that messages of all kinds, publications, parcels, and telegrams be impounded. (Art. 25.) Furthermore, the Public Prosecution may order the review or collection of any data or information relating to accounts, deposits, trusts, safe boxes, or any other transaction with banks or other financial institutions. (Art. 26.) If there is sufficient evidence of guilt of the accused person, the Public Prosecution may issue a temporary order preventing the accused person from disposing of his/her property or managing it, or to take any other provisional measures. The order may include the property of the spouse and minor children of the accused person. (Art. 27.)

Qatar law books at the Law Library of Congress. Photo by George Sadek.

6.  What is the National Counter Terrorism Committee?

The Law establishes “The National Counter Terrorism Committee at the Ministry of Interior.” Members of the Committee will be appointed by the Minister of Interior. (Art. 28.) The Committee is responsible for implementing the counterterrorism strategies of the State of Qatar and coordinating antiterrorism efforts carried out by different government bodies. The Committee is also in charge of public awareness campaigns educating the public about the dangers of terrorism. (Art. 29.)

7.  How does the Law regulate the statute of limitations for terrorist acts, and periods of pretrial detention?

Under the Law, there is no statute of limitation for terrorist crimes. (Art. 21.)

The pretrial detention period for terrorist crimes is 15 days, which can be extended. However, it must not exceed 180 days. (Art. 23.)

8.  What is the Sanctions List?

The Law establishes a “Sanctions List,” also known as the “Terrorist Designation List.” (Art. 31.) The List includes the names of individuals and entities suspected of; enabling and training terrorists or funding, sponsoring, carrying out, planning, promoting, and enticing crimes of terrorism. (Art. 32(2)(a).) Those crimes could be carried out against the interests of the State of Qatar inside the country or abroad. (Art. 32(2)(b).) The National Counter Terrorism Committee will publish the List on its website. (Art. 32(2)(c).) The Committee will also recommend the persons and entities to be included on the Sanctions List. Based on the suggestions of the Committee, the General Prosecutor will issue a decision to add those names to the list. (Art. 32(2).) The General Prosecutor will also send the names on the List to foreign countries and international organizations, including the U.N. Security Council. (Art. 33.)

An entity or a person on the List can submit a petition to the General Prosecutor to remove their name. The General Prosecutor must refer those petitions to the National Counter Terrorism Committee, which reviews them and gives its feedback. The General Prosecutor has the power to remove a person or entity’s name if there is no ground to keep their name on the List. (Art. 34.)

9.  What are the legal consequences of listing a natural or legal person on the Sanctions List?

Natural Person

Natural persons whose names are on the Sanctions List will be apprehended once they arrive in Qatar or leave the country. The person’s passport will be confiscated and his/her financial assets will be frozen. (Art. 38(1).)

Legal Person

The headquarters of a legal person on the Sanctions List will be shut down. All financial assets belong to the legal person will be frozen. Natural persons are prohibited from joining such a legal person or funding its activities. (Art. 38(2).) The Law defines “legal person” as any entity that establishes a working relationship with a financial institution and owns financial assets, including a company, institution, and non-government organization.

10.  How has the Law been received?

Legal scholars, such as Mohamed al Tamimi, have endorsed the Law. They consider that the Law assists Qatar to achieve its goal of combatting terrorism and terrorist entities by enhancing the penalties for the offense of recruiting people to join terrorist groups. Also, Nahar Rashed al Na’aimi, a Qatari attorney, has supported the measure adopted by the State of Qatar to create the National Counter Terrorism Committee to coordinate the efforts of different government agencies in combating terrorism and the recruitment of individuals to join terrorist groups abroad.

Another scholar, Abd Al Hasan Al Fatees, a professor at the University of Qatar College of Law, has stated that Law No. 27 of 2019 adheres to all international standards set forth by the UN conventions on combatting terrorism and terrorist financing. According to Fatees, the Law is one of the most advanced antiterrorism laws in the region.

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