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Bahrain Invokes WTO’s ‘National Security’ Clause in Qatar Boycott | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Bahrain Police officers standing near police vehicles in 2011 in Bahrain. PHOTO: AFP

Geneva- Trade restrictions imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates are justified by national security, Bahrain’s representative told a World Trade Organization meeting on Friday, a trade official who attended the meeting said.

Speaking on behalf of all three countries, the Bahraini diplomat at the WTO’s Goods Council said the measures were “in accordance with Article XXI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade,” which allows the usual rules to be broken for national security reasons, the official said.

It is extremely rare, perhaps unprecedented, in the WTO’s 22-year history for a country to explicitly and formally cite the “national security exemption” to pre-empt a potential trade dispute.

On the other hand, the Arab Federation for Human Rights (AFHR) officially condemned continued Qatari governments and labeling the boycott imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt as a “blockade”.

In a report issued by AFHR, the federation disclosed that in accordance with the provisions of international law, an embargo is defined as a coercive measure taken against a state by a decision of the Security Council, pursuant to the provisions of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations imposing with a military force. It pointed out that a boycott is fundamentally different.

It is a withdrawal of diplomatic and economic relations by a state or group of states from another state. A boycott is a sovereign right of all countries to establish or sever diplomatic ties with any country in case the latter seeks to stir unrest and insecurity amongst the international community. Accordingly, Qatar’s description of its boycott as a “blockade” is not justifiable.

Therefore, this legal ignorance characterized in the Qatar National Human Rights Committee report in regards to the distinction between a boycott and a blockade lacks objectivity and aims merely to gain international sympathy where the European Union (EU) rejects describing the current measures taken as a blockade and continues to demand that Qatar commits itself to combating terrorism. The Russian government has also adopted the same position.

The report pointed out that a senior official at the US Treasury Department, Adam Zubin, stated that “Qatar has shown a lack of political will to implement anti-terrorist financing laws effectively” which was supported by Daniel Glaser, former assistant secretary of the US Treasury Department, who said that “the designated terrorist financiers are openly and publicly engaged in the State of Qatar.”