Sunday, June 5, 2011
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has accused Qatar of violating international law by returning a female refugee from Libya to her home country after she complained about gang rapes by Libyan government troops in Tripoli.
UNHCR had determined that Ms. Al Obeidi qualified as a refugee. Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for UNHCR stated that: “UNHCR was present at the hotel where Ms. Al Obeidi was staying in Qatar, ready to accompany her to the airport to travel to an emergency transit centre in Romania . . . She was prevented from leaving for this flight in the early hours of Thursday morning. Ms. Al Obeidi was transported against her will to Benghazi on a flight by Qatar early Thursday,” he added.
Qatar is not a member of the 1951 Refugee Convention, but it may be argued that the duty of nonrefoulement exists under customary international law. The principle of nonrefoulement prohibits a state from returning a refugee against his or her will to a country where he or she fears threats to life or freedom.