Posts Tagged ‘United Arab Emirates’

UAE runs ‘informal prisons’ in Yemen: HRW

June 22, 2017


© AFP/File | The Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes in 2015 against the Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen

BEIRUT (AFP) – The United Arab Emirates runs at least two “informal detention facilities” in Yemen and has reportedly transferred detainees to a base in Eritrea, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

The UAE is a key member of a Saudi-led military coalition that entered Yemen’s conflict in 2015 to battle on the government’s side against Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

HRW said UAE officials appeared to have “moved high-profile detainees outside the country” including to a base in Eritrea.

The rights group said it had documented 49 cases, including those of four children, who had been “arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared” — at least 38 of them by UAE-backed forces.

The New York-based group said the UAE also runs detention facilities in southern provinces home to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and a local affiliate of the Islamic State group.

Children are among those detained in the centres, it said.

It said Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies, forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, had also “arbitrarily detained and disappeared scores of people in northern Yemen”.

The World Health Organization estimates more than 8,000 people have been killed in two years of conflict in Yemen, which also faces a deadly cholera outbreak and the threat of famine.

All parties in Yemen’s war have drawn harsh criticism for causing civilian suffering.

The United Nations and HRW have said air strikes by the Saudi-led alliance have killed many civilians and may amount to war crimes.

Hong Kong firms join forces to make deals under Silk Road plan

June 19, 2017

Companies will draw on their experience to initially establish infrastructure projects and industrial parks in Thailand and Vietnam

By Josh Ye
South China Morning Post

Monday, June 19, 2017, 8:48pm

Hong Kong companies will form a consortium to build infrastructure projects and industrial parks in Thailand and Vietnam under mainland China’s Silk Road project, the Trade Development Council says.

Council president Vincent Lo Hong-sui said over 40 business leaders from Hong Kong and Shanghai formed a delegation while visiting the two countries last month and met both prime ministers.

He added that this was one of many steps in further involving Hong Kong companies with the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

Lo said the statutory body was now forming “a consortium of local companies” to help them enter these developing markets as a collective force.

“We are looking to build infrastructure projects and industrial parks in countries under the belt and road initiative.”

The initiative was launched by Beijing in 2013 to promote the building of railways, roads, power plants and other infrastructure projects in 60 countries from Asia to Europe on its old Silk Road to promote trade and economic growth.

The council has identified eight countries out of the 65 under the scheme as the initial destinations for Hong Kong investment – Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Nicholas Kwan, research director at the council, said Hong Kong investors were seasoned in managing supply chain systems across countries.

 Vincent Lo says numerous multibillion-dollar deals will be closed this year. Photo: Sam Tsang

Lo said the development level of many of the belt and road countries reminded him of mainland China three decades ago.

“Hong Kong investors have garnered a lot of practical experience in developing mainland China,” he said. “This experience is unique and will definitely benefit other countries.”

He said the council aimed to close several deals this year and estimated some projects were worth more than US$10 billion.

Lo added that chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had told him the next administration would fully support the council in furthering deals with countries linked to the trade initiative.

The council also announced that it would host its second belt and road summit in September, which looked to introduce more concrete plans for local firms to enter relevant countries.

Iraq VP Accuses Qatar of Having Tried to Split His Country

June 17, 2017

CAIRO — Qatar promoted a plan to split Iraq along sectarian lines, Iraqi Vice President Iyad Allawi said on Saturday, voicing support for the isolation of Doha by some Arab states.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have broken off ties and imposed sanctions on Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and courting regional rival Iran – allegations Doha denies.

Allawi is a secular Shi’ite politician who has some support within Iraq’s Sunni community. His position as vice president is largely ceremonial and his views do not reflect those of the government in Baghdad, headed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Abadi has refused to take sides officially in the Gulf Arab rift but criticized the sanctions imposed on Qatar, saying they hurt the population, not the Qatari government.





Saudi-Qatar crisis puts Syria rebels in tricky position

June 17, 2017


© AFP / by Sammy Ketz | Smoke rises from buildings following a reported air strike on a rebel-held area in the southern Syrian city of Daraa, on June 14, 2017

BEIRUT (AFP) – A diplomatic crisis pitting Saudi Arabia against Qatar has put Syrian rebels in a difficult position, analysts say, after rivalries between Gulf backers had already weakened the opposition.

Both Sunni-ruled monarchies sided with the protesters in March 2011, when the war started with the brutal repression of anti-government demonstrations.

They continued supporting the mostly Sunni rebels when unrest spiralled into conflict between the armed opposition and troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, who hails from the country’s Alawite Shiite minority and is backed by Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran.

But six years later, the rebellion has been plagued by rivalries between Riyadh and Doha, as well as weakened by Russia’s military intervention in support of Assad’s forces.

Moscow’s support for regime forces led to a series of setbacks for the rebels, including their landmark loss in December of second city Aleppo.

Last week, Saudi Arabia and allies, including the United Arab Emirates, severed or reduced diplomatic ties with Qatar over accusations the emirate supports extremism, claims Doha has denied.

“The current rupture puts the Syrian opposition in a very awkward position politically, as nobody wants to have to take sides publicly nor can afford to alienate either side,” said Yezid Sayigh, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Centre.

A rebel official in the opposition stronghold of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus said he hoped the crisis between Doha and Riyadh was just “a temporary storm”.

– ‘Sensitive’ issue –

“Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have supported the revolution of the Syrian people and shown solidarity throughout years of tragedy,” the rebel official said.

In a sign of the embarrassment the crisis is causing, several rebel groups approached by AFP refused to comment, saying it was a “sensitive” issue.

But Sayigh said the latest flare-up in relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia will have a limited impact on the Syrian conflict.

“It probably won’t have a major financial impact, nor a military one since the US and Turkey have stepped up their support for factions that previously were close to Qatar or to Saudi Arabia,” Sayigh said.

Riyadh “reduced its funding sharply starting” from the summer of 2015 “after it launched its intervention in Yemen” earlier in the year, he said.

Six years into the war, Syria’s fractured rebellion controls just around 10 percent of the war-torn country, with backing from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan and the United States.

Pro-Doha rebels including the powerful Ahrar al-Sham group are present in the north of the country.

In Eastern Ghouta, pro-Doha opposition groups exist alongside the pro-Riyadh Jaish al-Islam rebel alliance.

Rebels in the south, meanwhile, are trained by Amman and Washington.

Another influential player is Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, which now leads the Tahrir al-Sham group and which some analysts and Syrian factions say has links with Qatar, although Doha has denied this.

– Tensions in Eastern Ghouta? –

Qatar led most mediation efforts to obtain the release of hostages held by the group formerly known as Al-Nusra Front.

In Eastern Ghouta, even before the Gulf crisis, factions supported by Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia on the other had already clashed, killing hundreds of fighters.

Raphael Lefevre, a researcher at the University of Oxford, said the latest Saudi-Qatari crisis could well spark further tensions between rival groups in the rebel enclave.

In 2013 and 2014, “Qatar and Saudi Arabia competed for influence within exiled opposition bodies, each by supporting different factions and leaders, something which largely contributed to paralysing and fragmenting the Syrian opposition,” he said.

But the consequences of the latest spat “could be much bloodier, especially as the two countries support rival rebel factions in areas already marked by a great degree of opposition infighting and regime violence such as the Eastern Ghouta”, Lefevre said.

Syria expert Thomas Pierret however said “local dynamics rather than external patrons determine alliances” in Eastern Ghouta.

He said Ahrar al-Sham risked “suffering financially from a reorientation of Qatari politics”, even if it continues to enjoy support from Turkey, which has intervened as a mediator in the Gulf dispute.

Syria’s exiled political opposition is also fractured. The High Negotiations Committee is based in Riyadh, while the National Coalition work out of Istanbul.

by Sammy Ketz



Qatar says fighter jets deal shows deep U.S. support

June 15, 2017


By Tom Finn | DOHA

A $12 billion deal to buy Boeing F-15 (BA.N) U.S. fighter jets shows Qatar has deep-rooted support from Washington, a Qatari official said on Thursday, adding that its rift with some other Arab states had not hurt the U.S. relationship with Doha.

Qatar is facing a severe economic and diplomatic boycott by Saudi Arabia and its regional allies who cut ties last week, accusing it of funding terrorist groups, a charge Doha denies.

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly echoed the accusations against Qatar, even as his Defense and State Departments have tried to remain neutral in the dispute among key allies. Qatar is home to the headquarters for U.S. air forces in the Middle East.

On Wednesday U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signed the previously-approved warplane deal with Qatari Minister of State for Defense Affairs Khalid al-Attiyah. Qatar’s ambassador to the United States, Meshal Hamad al-Thani, posted a picture of the signing ceremony on Twitter.

“This is of course proof that U.S. institutions are with us but we have never doubted that,” a Qatari official in Doha said. “Our militaries are like brothers. America’s support for Qatar is deep-rooted and not easily influenced by political changes.”

A Qatari defense ministry source said the deal was for 36 jets. In November, under the administration of Barack Obama, the United States approved a possible sale of up to 72 F-15QA aircraft to Qatar for $21.1 billion. Boeing, the prime contractor on the sale, declined to comment.

A European diplomat in the Gulf said the timing of the deal appeared coincidental.

“Presumably the U.S. could have delayed the deal if they’d wanted to, although I don’t think there’s a great connect between sales and foreign policy.”

Qatar is an important base for the U.S. military carrying out operations against Islamic State militants and other groups in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and beyond. Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar is home to more than 11,000 U.S. and coalition troops.

Qatar’s state news agency said on Wednesday that two U.S. warships arrived at Hamad port in Qatar as part of a planned joint military exercise involving marine forces.

The Pentagon said the jets sale will increase security cooperation between the U.S. and Qatar and help them operate together. It added Mattis and Attiyah had also discussed the current state of operations against Islamic State and the importance of de-escalating tensions in the Gulf.

The fighter jet deal had been stalled amid concerns raised by Israel that equipment sent to Gulf states could fall into the wrong hands and be used against it, and by the Obama administration’s broader decision-making on military aid to the Gulf.

Trump, who took office in January, has accused Qatar of being a “high-level” sponsor of terrorism, potentially hindering the State Department’s efforts to help ease the worst diplomatic crisis between Gulf Arab states for years.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is expected in Kuwait on Thursday after completing a visit to Qatar, foreign ministry sources said, in his quest to help broker an end to the dispute. Kuwait has emerged as the main mediator in the crisis.

Turkey has backed Qatar in the crisis and President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Wednesday the rift was damaging the Islamic world and Ankara would do all it could by diplomatic channels to prevent any escalation.

(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal; writing by Sylvia Westall; editing by Peter Graff)




Grim search for bodies in gutted London tower block

June 15, 2017


© AFP | A security cordon holds people back as Grenfell Tower is engulfed by fire.

LONDON (AFP) – Firefighters searched for bodies Thursday in a London tower block gutted by a blaze that has already left 12 dead, as questions grew over whether a refurbishment had contributed to the disaster.The death toll was expected to rise further as crews picked their way through the blackened skeleton of the 24-storey Grenfell Tower, home to around 600 people and the scene of horror on Tuesday night.

Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said parts of the building remained unsafe and it would take a long time to complete a detailed search of every floor.

She told Sky News there were still “unknown numbers” of people inside, but “it will be an absolute miracle for anyone to be left alive”.

“It will take weeks before this building is cleared and truly searched properly,” she said.

Whole families remain missing after the fire swept up the local authority building, forcing residents to flee through black smoke down the single stairwell, jump out a window or even drop their children to safety.

Questions are growing about how the flames spread so quickly, engulfing its 120 apartments in what fire chiefs said was an unprecedented blaze.

The focus centres on the cladding fitted to external walls on the 1970s concrete block, as part of a £8.7-million ($11 million, 9.9 million euros) refit completed only last year.

According to the BBC, the cladding had a plastic core, and was similar to that used by high-rise buildings in France, the United Arab Emirates and Australia which had also suffered fires that spread.

Rydon, the firm responsible for the refit, said the project “met all required building regulations”.

Harley Facades, which fitted the panels, told the BBC: “At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.”

Prime Minister Theresa May said there would be an investigation into the cause of the “appalling tragedy”, once the last bodies had been recovered.

– Helplessly watching –

Grenfell Tower looms over a social housing estate in north Kensington, just streets away from some of the most expensive homes in the world in Notting Hill.

The area has a large immigrant population, but many families have lived in the area for years, passing their low-rent homes onto their children.

Eyewitnesses told how residents in the upper floors shone their mobile phone torches to attract attention, before they disappeared from the windows, their screams of help falling silent.

“We saw them dying,” said Adi Estu, 32, who was evacuated from her home nearby.

Some desperate people reportedly jumped from the windows, while one woman, Samira Lamrani, said she saw a woman drop a baby from the ninth or 10th floor, for the child to be caught by a man below.

The fire triggered a wave of mourning in a country already battered by a string of terror attacks.

More than £480,000 had been raised online for the victims by Thursday morning, while local community centres were inundated by donations of clothes and food.

Volunteers in the city of Glasgow — 550 kilometres (350 miles) away — sent a truck laden with nappies and other supplies.

– Stay home –

Cladding has been added to a number of buildings across London in recent years, intended to provide insulation as well as improve the appearance of older buildings.

But Kostas Tsavdaridis, associate professor of Structural Engineering at the University of Leeds warned: “Some materials used in facades act as significant fire loads.

“Although theoretically they are fire resistant, in most cases they are high-temperature resistant instead of fire resistant. But even if they are, smoke and fire will spread through the joints and connections.”

There were questions about why there was no sprinkler system in the Grenfell Tower which could have helped stop the fire spreading, or any central smoke alarm system that would have woken sleeping residents.

Official fire service advice for residents to stay in their homes and use towels to block out smoke, while awaiting help, has also come under scrutiny.

Firefighters were only able to reach the tower’s 12th floor of the block at the height of the blaze.

Abdelaziz El-Wahabi, his wife Faouzia and their three children were among those who followed to protocol in their flat on the 21st floor.

“Last time I spoke to his wife, he was on the phone to the fire brigade. I’ve not heard from them since,” his sister Hanan Wahabi told AFP on Wednesday morning.

David Collins, former chairman of the Grenfell Tower Residents’ Association, said the building’s management had failed to listen to residents’ calls for improvements on fire safety.

“If the same concerns were had in a wealthy part of Kensington and Chelsea they would have got resolved, but here they didn’t get resolved,” Collins told AFP.


U.S. and Qatar sign preliminary arms sales agreement valued at $12 billion

June 15, 2017

The preliminary agreement for the sale of dozens of F-15 jet fighters comes amid escalating tensions between leading Arab countries

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, center, at the Al Udeid air base in Qatar in April.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, center, at the Al Udeid air base in Qatar in April. PHOTO: JONATHAN ERNST/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES


Updated June 14, 2017 7:53 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The U.S. and Qatar signed a preliminary agreement for the sale of dozens of Boeing Co. F-15 jet fighters to the Persian Gulf monarchy, in a transaction that risks further ensnaring the Trump administration in an escalating dispute between leading Arab countries.

Qatar’s Defense Ministry valued the contract at $12 billion and said it would create 60,000 American jobs.

The preliminary deal was signed at the Pentagon on Wednesday by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his Qatari counterpart, Khalid al-Attiyah, said U.S. and Qatari officials.

“This agreement underscores the longstanding commitment of the State of Qatar in jointly working with our friends and allies in the United States in advancing our military cooperation,” Qatar’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries severed diplomatic relations with Qatar last week, and sealed their air and land borders, after charging the gas-rich emirate of financing terrorism and promoting extremist ideologies.

Qatar is home to the Al Udeid air base, the largest U.S. military facility in the Middle East. American energy and defense companies have major investments in the country.

The dispute between U.S. allies has placed the Trump administration in a diplomatic bind and resulted in conflicting statements coming out of Washington.

President Donald Trump has appeared in recent days to side with Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., publicly accusing Qatar of financing terrorism at the “highest levels.” At the same time, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called for easing of the Arab states’ economic squeeze on Qatar and offered to mediate the dispute.

In private, U.S. officials have said the Trump administration is trying to take an evenhanded approach.

A senior administration official on Wednesday said the Boeing sale has been in the works for a long period of time and officials realized a White House move to block the deal, or slow its progress, would have appeared as an attempt to undermine Doha.

“We want to try and reintegrate Qatar amongst its neighbors,” said the U.S. official. “Obviously, blocking it would have made the opposite statement.”

The Obama administration last year first approved the possible sale of 72 F-15s for an estimated $21.1 billion, a deal which would keep the Boeing production line in St. Louis moving into the next decade after a previous dearth of new deals had threatened its closure. Mr. Trump has prioritized generating American jobs as part of his foreign-policy approach.

A completed deal had come into question following the sanctions imposed against Qatar last week, said people involved in the process.

Boeing claimed it had secured $50 billion in potential sales of jets, helicopters, munitions and other equipment to Saudi Arabia during Mr. Trump’s recent state visit to the kingdom. The U.A.E., another big Boeing customer, backs Qatar’s isolation.

Qatar didn’t detail Wednesday how many planes were involved in the current negotiations, though analysts had expected them to acquire an initial 36, with a potential follow-on deal for another 36.

The proposed deal is a government-to-government negotiation, and a letter of agreement would entail the start of Pentagon talks with Boeing to facilitate a sale.

Boeing declined to comment.

Tensions between Qatar and its neighbors have shown little sign of easing in recent days.

Saudi and Emirati officials said they are considering more sanctions against Doha. And they have so far rebuffed Mr. Tillerson’s calls to soften their approach.

The U. A.E’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, on Tuesday suggested that the U.S. consider moving its operations out of Qatar. He said the facility provides the country’s ruling family leverage against the U.S. and its other allies.

Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. have charged Qatar of providing funds to al Qaeda-linked groups fighting in Syria and Libya. They also accuse Qatar’s Al Jazeera television network of promoting radical ideologies across the Mideast. Qatar and Al Jazeera have denied those charges.

“Maybe someone in Congress should have a hearing and just say, you know, ‘Should we consider moving it?’” Mr. Otaiba said of Al Udeid. “And maybe not moving the entire base. Maybe just distribute to various countries so you don’t have all your eggs in one basket.”

Write to Jay Solomon at and Doug Cameron at

Appeared in the June 15, 2017, print edition as ‘U.S., Qatar Sign F-15 Agreement.’

Turkey FM heads to Doha as UN ‘alarmed’ by Gulf crisis

June 14, 2017


© AFP/File / by David Harding | Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks at a news conference in Ankara, on June 5, 2017

DOHA (AFP) – The search for a diplomatic solution to the Gulf crisis intensified Wednesday as Turkey’s top diplomat headed to Qatar while the UN voiced fears over growing humanitarian concerns in the region.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, foreign minister of one of Qatar’s strongest allies, is expected to hold talks with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, on a mission which could also see him travel to regional powerbroker Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia has the potential and capability to solve this crisis as a wise state and big brother of the region and also as a major actor,” Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Wednesday.

“We aim to involve all actors in this process.”

Riyadh is one of several countries which has imposed a political and economic “blockade” on Qatar, in protest at Doha’s support for Islamist extremist groups as well as over its ties to Shiite Iran.

The move has been backed by nations including Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt and others.

Qatar strongly denies the charges and claims neighbouring countries are trying to interfere with its foreign policy.

Before heading to Doha, Cavusoglu said that “if the programme allows I will also visit Saudi Arabia”, in quotes reported by the Anadolu news agency.

“It is very useful to take into account the opinions and suggestions of Saudi Arabia.”

He added that the situation “was causing great discomfort for everybody” especially during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who has described the decision by Gulf states to cut political and economic ties with Qatar as “inhumane” — is expected to hold phone talks with US President Donald Trump in the coming days.

In addition, the Turkish president’s spokesman said a trilateral meeting between Ankara, Paris and Doha was planned.

The planned talks follow discussions on Tuesday between Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

– UN ‘alarmed’ –

In Geneva, concern surrounding the humanitarian situation grew Wednesday, with the intervention of the UN human rights chief.

“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, Egypt and Bahrain to cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, in his first comments on the crisis.

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

The decision to isolate Qatar had led to fears that thousands of families in the Gulf would be split apart.

As well as economic and political ties, the Gulf states also ordered Qataris out within 14 days as well as calling home their own citizens.

Amnesty International has warned of “heartbreak and fear” being suffered by ordinary people in the region.

It also accused Saudi Arabia and its allies of “toying with the lives of thousands of Gulf residents”.

Bahrain and the UAE have also banned expressions of sympathy for Qatar.

Manama announced on Wednesday that it had detained a citizen for sympathising with Qatar on social media.

There have also been fears of food shortages in Qatar — so far not realised — and a disruption of imports needed for a number of capital projects in the gas-rich emirate.

Qatar is receiving food deliveries from Turkey, Iran and Morocco among others.

The 2022 World Cup host is also in the middle of building huge capital projects worth an estimated $200 billion-plus, many of which rely on suppliers in the region.

Doha-based airline Qatar Airways has been banned from using the airspace of neighbouring countries since measures were announced on June 5.

However, the carrier said services were largely unaffected by the decision in a statement Wednesday.

“Qatar Airways’ global operations continue to run smoothly, with the vast majority of our network unaffected by the current circumstances,” said chief executive Akbar Al-Baker.

Although the crisis remains a diplomatic one, there have been some fears voiced it could end in a military solution.

Also on Wednesday, Qatar announced it was withdrawing its troops from the Djibouti-Eritrea border.

by David Harding


Qatar Crisis: Turkey Says Dispute Harms Islamic World, Working for Resolution

June 14, 2017

ANKARA — The crisis surrounding Qatar is damaging for the Islamic world and Turkey is working to help resolve the issue through diplomacy, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a press conference, Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey was sending food assistance to Qatar after neighbouring Gulf Arab states severed ties with Doha and imposed sanctions saying it supports terrorism and courts regional rival Iran.

Kalin also said a Turkish military base in Qatar, set up before the regional spat, was established to ensure the security of the whole region and did not have an aim of any military action against any country.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Humeyra Pamuk)



U.N’s Zeid Warns Gulf States to Respect Rights in Qatar Row

June 14, 2017


JUNE 14, 2017, 8:30 A.M. E.D.T.

GENEVA — The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain appear to be violating people’s human rights by threatening to jail or fine them for expressing sympathy for Qatar, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein said on Wednesday.

Those states, as well as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have broken off diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar but must respect citizens’ rights, he said.

“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,” Hussein said in a statement.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. UN Photo -Jean-Marc Ferré.