By Arab News
By Ben Flanagan
Qatar issued a false statement about a visit by British politicians to Doha, in which it was claimed an official committee called for the lifting of the blockade on the Gulf state, the UK Parliament has told Arab News.
The state-run Qatar News Agency (QNA) in September claimed that the “British Parliamentary Inquiry Committee” had been “charged by the British Parliament to investigate the violations of the siege imposed on the State of Qatar.”
But no committee of that name exists, and the UK Parliament made no order for such a visit, it was confirmed this week.
The QNA report — which also referenced a non-existent MP called “J. Morse” — was picked up by several Qatar-based media outlets. Some claimed that the group of politicians had called for the blockade on Qatar to be lifted.
The UK Parliament confirmed that a group of British politicians visited Qatar in September, but denied that it was an official visit.
“A number of parliamentarians visited Qatar in partnership with the Arab Organization for Human Rights in the UK,” a parliamentary spokesperson told Arab News.
“This was done in their personal capacity, and not as part of an official committee of the UK Parliament. The rules concerning registration of foreign travel for MPs and peers are set out in the relevant codes of conduct.”
The delegation to Qatar in September included Grahame Morris MP, Lord Nazir Ahmed, Lord Kilclooney and Lord Qurban Hussain. All refused to comment on the nature or funding of the trip, despite repeated requests by Arab News.
The three members of the House of Lords all declared the visit in the parliamentary register of interests, saying that the travel and accommodation costs were met by the Arab Organization for Human Rights in UK. Lord Kilclooney and Lord Qurban Hussain declared it as a “cross-party parliamentary visit.”
Records for the Arab Organization for Human Rights lodged at Companies House in the UK show that it is a non-trading company. The organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The freelance journalist Bill Law also accompanied the group trip to Qatar, and was pictured, with a wide smile on his face, in group photographs with the politicians.
Law later filed a report for the BBC radio show “From Our Own Correspondent,” in which he quotes Qataris who were highly critical of the Anti-Terror Quartet, including one unnamed person who claimed the action of the quartet amounted to “terrorism.”
A BBC spokesperson stood by the report. “This first person piece from Qatar looks at the impact the current situation is having on the mood of the country, families, as well as at the economic upset. We’re satisfied the piece is an impartial piece of journalism,” the spokesperson told Arab News.
The Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain — imposed a blockade in June over allegations that Qatar supports extremist groups. Doha denies the charges.