Amnesty condemns cost of Qatar crisis on human rights
Amnesty International warned on Saturday of the "heartbreak and fear" being suffered by potentially thousands of ordinary individuals because of the political dispute in the Gulf that has isolated Qatar.
"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 human rights watchdog said.
On Monday, the three countries, along with Egypt and other Arab allies, cut diplomatic and transport links with Qatar over its alleged support for extremism, a charge Doha denies.
Qatar's neighbours have also given its citizens 14 days to leave and instructed their own nationals to return.
"For potentially thousands of people across the Gulf, the effect of the steps imposed in the wake of this political dispute is suffering, heartbreak and fear," said James Lynch, deputy director of Amnesty's Global Issues Programme, who was in Doha last week.
"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.
It gave the example of a Saudi man, a resident of Doha with his Qatari wife and children, who had been unable to visit his sick mother hospitalised in Saudi Arabia because he would be blocked from returning to his family.
"I go home, I can’t see my wife. I stay here, I can’t see my mum," he was quoted as saying.
Amnesty also pointed out that Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had warned of harsh punishments, including up to 15 years in jail, "if they dare to criticise these measures" against Qatar.
"Prosecuting anyone on this basis would be a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression. No one should be punished for peacefully expressing their views or criticising a government decision," said Lynch.