Gabriela Knaul (left), UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and Dr Elobaid Ahmed Elobaid, Head of UN Training and Documentation Centre for Human Rights in Doha, during a press conference at the centre yesterday. Kammutty V P
DOHA: A top visiting UN official, while lauding Qatar for recognising the independence of judiciary in its Constitution, has called for urgent measures to consolidate this freedom.
Qatar, according to the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, is determined to reform its justice system, and its leadership is much more open to suggestions on judicial reforms.
Gabriela Knaul was here on an eight-day visit at Qatar’s invitation and addressed the press yesterday, highlighting several key issues. The current judicial system is recently established and continues to face some challenges, especially in relation to the independence of judges, prosecutors and lawyers.
The absence of a code of conduct and ethics for judges affects the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, said Knaul.
The creation of a Constitutional Court should be underlined as a positive development, she said, but wondered why this court was not operational over five years after the law that created it was passed and four years after its head was appointed.
“I strongly encourage that the court be formed and start functioning as early as possible.”
Knaul said she welcomed the establishment of the Public Prosecution as an institution independent from ministries or the judiciary, but added that the fact that the Prosecutor-General had the rank of Minister might create confusion regarding its independence from the executive.
Talking about the lawyers’ association here, she said it had no official competence, so gradual but significant steps should be taken towards establishing an independent bar association.
This association would provide an umbrella of protection for its members against undue interference in their legal work and monitor and report on their members’ conduct and apply disciplinary measures in a fair and consistent manner.
The setting up of such an organised legal profession is a key element to the independence of lawyers. “In Qatar, such functions are presently entrusted to the Ministry of Justice.”
Knaul underlined the need for transparency during both the investigation phase and court proceedings. She said modern technology tools should be urgently adopted and all hearings should be recorded to ensure proper, adequate and transparent administration of justice.
Ten years after the adoption of the new Constitution, Qatar should not miss the opportunity to launch reforms necessary to reinforce its institutions, in particular those related to the justice system, she said.