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Bahrain, UAE violating human rights amid Persian Gulf dispute

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein addresses a session of the UN Human Rights Council on June 6, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photos by AFP)

The United Nations has warned Persian Gulf states to respect the rights of citizens amid heightening tensions with Qatar.

On Wednesday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein said the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain are violating people’s rights by jailing or fining them for voicing sympathy for Qatar.

In early June, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) broke off relations with Doha and suspended all land, air and sea traffic with the monarchy. In their apparent bid to secure US support and that of Israel, the four countries cited Qatar's links with the Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas and accused it of supporting terrorism.  

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Zeid stressed that the four countries have so far labeled scores of people and entities with supposed links to Qatar as terrorists.

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

He went on to call on Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain to respect the humanitarian rights of families with joint nationalities.

Zeid noted that his office had received multiple reports of specific individuals being ordered to leave their countries’ of residence in relation to the Persian Gulf row.

Passengers check in at a Qatar Airways counter in the Hamad International Airport in the Qatari capital Doha on June 12, 2017. Qatar Airways called on the UN's aviation body to declare a Persian Gulf boycott against the carrier "illegal" and a violation of a 1944 convention on international air transport. 

"Among those likely to be badly affected are couples in mixed marriages, and their children; people with jobs or businesses based in states other than that of their nationality; and students studying in another country," he said.

"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, as this would appear to be a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression or opinion," he added.

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Earlier in the day, Bahrain arrested a citizen who expressed sympathy for Qatar over sanctions imposed on the country by its Arab neighbors while a lawyer, who challenged the blockade, was also sent behind bars.

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