HAUGE - The UN's top court Monday ordered the United Arab Emirates to protect the rights of Qatari citizens wading into a bitter crisis which has snapped ties between Doha and its Gulf neighbours.
Judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague narrowly ruled in a binding decision that the UAE must allow families, which include Qatari members, to be reunited, and that Qatari students must be given the chance to complete their education in the Emirates.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and other allies severed ties with Qatar on June 7, 2017, accusing Doha of backing terrorism. Qatari nationals living in the UAE were officially given just 14 days to leave the country.
But Doha denies the accusations, and last month appealed to the ICJ to impose emergency measures against the UAE accusing Abu Dhabi of breaking the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
In a hearing in late June, Qatar accused the United Arab Emirates of spreading a "climate of fear" among Qataris living there, splitting families and causing "substantial pain" during the year-long blockade.
On Monday, the ICJ judges voted by eight votes in favour and seven against that the UAE "must ensure that families, that include a Qatari, separated by the measures adopted by the United Arab Emirates ... are reunited," said presiding judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf.
Qatari students must also be given the opportunity "to complete their education" in the Emirates or obtain their educational records if they wish to study elsewhere. Qataris "affected" by the UAE measures must also be allowed "access to tribunals and other judicial organs" in the country.
- 'Repairing the damage' -
Qatar welcomed Monday's ruling, with foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed bin Saeed al-Rumaihi, saying in a tweet that his country "was not seeking to escalate the dispute with the Emirates, but to repair the prejudice imposed on its citizens".
The move into the international courts came a year after the severing of ties and imposition of punitive measures, accusing Doha of backing terrorism.
These also included banning Qatar Airways from their airspace and closing the country's only land border with Saudi Arabia.
"Qatar has failed to provide any evidence of mass expulsions or deportations or any specific actions to interfere in the enjoyment by Qataris of their civil, property or business rights," Saeed Alnowais, the UAE's ambassador to the Netherlands, told the court last month.
He accused Doha of "mounting a public relations campaign against these states that have been most critical of its policies."
The ICJ was set up in 1946 to rule in disputes against states.
Diplomatic efforts have so far proved fruitless in resolving the crisis which has rendered the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council practically obsolete. - APP/AFP