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Qatar rights group hires Swiss law firm to sue blockade countries

Qatar's National Human Rights Commission said it would be seeking damages for those affected by the sanctions
Ali bin Smaikh al-Marri, chairman of Qatar's National Human Rights Commission giving a press conference in Doha on 8 June, 2017 (AFP)

A top Qatari human rights group said it will employ Swiss lawyers to seek compensation for those impacted by the decision of Gulf countries to cut ties with the emirate.

Lalive, a law firm with offices in Geneva, Zurich and Doha, is finalising an agreement with Qatar's government-appointed National Human Rights Commission (QNHRC) that will be announced on Saturday.

Ali bin Smaikh Al-Marri, chairman of QNHRC, said his group would take action against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which cut ties with Qatar this month.

"We'll be coordinating to start legal action with those affected by these sanctions," Marri told a news conference.

Some cases will be filed in courts in those three countries and in some courts that have international jurisdictions, like in Europe, related to compensation

- Ali bin Smaikh Al-Marri, QNHRC

"The three countries are responsible to compensate those affected," he said, adding many Qataris qualified for compensation.

"Some cases will be filed in courts in those three countries and in some courts that have international jurisdictions, like in Europe, related to compensation."

Representatives of the Qatari, Saudi, UAE and Bahraini governments could not immediately be reached for comment.

Qataris are the wealthiest citizens in the world per capita enjoying wealth produced by the world's largest exports of liquefied natural gas.

Many own assets worth millions of dollars in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and the UAE, including hotels, real estate and farmland.

Others have cancelled travel plans and scrapped import deals with UAE-based firms since the countries cut ties with Qatar on 5 June and imposed economic sanctions, accusing it of funding militants.

It was not immediately clear under what jurisdictional basis the legal claims would be made and whether governments involved would have to first agree to arbitration.

A man walks on the corniche in Doha (Reuters)

Lalive, which declined to comment, has practised in Qatar since 2006 and unlike other international law firms does not have offices in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE.

The firm's partners include Michael Schneider, an expert in international commercial arbitration who represented Saddam Hussein's government in the UN Compensation Commission over claims related to Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The Gulf crisis, the worst to hit the region in years, shows no sign of abating.

Last week, Riyadh laid down a list of 13 demands for Qatar to meet by 3 July, including ending support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the closure of Al-Jazeera television, a downgrade of diplomatic ties with Iran and the shutdown of a Turkish military base in the emirate.

The UAE has told Qatar it should take the demands seriously or face a "divorce" from its Gulf neighbours.

Qatar said it rejects all foreign interference in its policies.

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