The constitutional development in Qatar graduated from one phase to another, keeping pace with the development of the country and it's economic growth. The first provisional constitution was issued in 1970 before independence and it was amended in 1972 after independence, in order to cope with the requirements and responsibilities of the new phase.
Since that time the objectives and features of the state policy and its Gulf, Arab and Islamic affiliations were determined. The State's authorities and apparatus acquired their experience from actually practicing these authorities in the internal and external domains.
Amendments were made on some provisions of the provisional basic statute in regard to the executive authority and hereditary rule so as to conclude the constitutional arrangements in the country. The judiciary act and other basic laws, which were enacted to regulate civil and commercial interactions, were other steps on the way to build up the government apparatus and lay down the foundation for the rule of institutions and the law. To reach that goal, an Emiri Decree was issued in July 1999 to form a high level committee to draft a new, permanent constitution for the country, one of the main provisions of which would be to cope with the achievements of the State of Qatar and to meet the aspirations and hopes of the 21st century.
At the end of June 1999, the Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al-Thani issued a decision to form a ministerial committee mandated to study the planning of future economic and industrial development in the country in the light of current global trends. In December 1999 H.H. the Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani issued an Emiri Decree to form the "High Committee for Coordination and Follow Up", chaired by H.H. the Heir Apparent Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al-Thani. The Committee is mandated to study the projects proposed by the ministries of public utilities and services sector and work to explore the means to improve coordination among these ministries with a view to enhance cooperation and optimize the implementation of projects.
In 1999, free elections were held to form the Central Municipal Council for the first time in the history of Qatar. The historic event marked the country's first step towards democracy in its civic sense. In a pioneering move, women were allowed both to vote and run as candidates in this initial step towards popular participation in decision making in the country.
The amended provisional basic statute of rule in the country for 1972 declares that: Qatar is a sovereign and independent Arab state, Islam is the official religion of the country and the Shariah (Islamic Law) is the principal source of legislation. Democracy is the basis for the system of government. The official language is Arabic and the Qatari people are part of the Arab nation.
The state exercises sovereignty over all the territories and territorial waters, which fall within its international borders. It has no right to renounce sovereignty or withdraw from any part of those territories or waters. The State is responsible for maintaining the integrity, security and stability of the country as well as using all its resources to defend it against any act of aggression.
The state believes in and strives for the unity of Arab states: a necessity dictated by the common interests of our region and those of the Arab world. Similarly, the state supports all efforts to foster the spirit of fraternity and democracy.
The aim of Qatar's foreign policy is to strengthen bonds of friendship with all countries, especially with the Islamic peoples. The State accepts the principles contained in the United Nations Charter, which support the right of all peoples and nations to self-determination.
The State is legally entrusted with the control and supervision of the national economy to accomplish economic development in the country through sound planning and technical cooperation with specialized international agencies. Private ownership, capital and labour form the basic components of the social structure of the country. They are regarded as individual rights that serve a social function, and are organized by the law.
The state also guarantees all free enterprises, provided that it does not conflict with the interests of the state. In accordance with religious, moral and national principles, basic statute is fully concerned with the well being of the family, as it is the nucleus of the society. To that end, specific legislation have been enacted to protect the family and the young generation, and every effort is being made to provide equal opportunities for all citizens to practice their right of work on the basis of social justice protected by the law.
Civil Rights and liberties
The citizens of Qatar enjoy equal civil rights and responsibilities without discrimination on grounds of race, origin or religion. Laws cannot be applied retroactively and no sentence may be passed except under the terms of an existing law. A suspect is innocent until proven guilty and is entitled to a fair trial.
The civil liberties guaranteed by the state include the right of residence, freedom of press and publication and private ownership. These rights cannot be circumscribed except where the practice of such rights contravenes the law or the public interest. The basic statute requires all those residing in the state to observe public order and respect public customs and morals.
On its part, the state is responsible for providing public jobs for all residents.
His Highness the Emir is the Head of the constitutional authorities, holding both legislative and executive powers. The Council of Ministers assists in implementing the general policies of the State and the Advisory Council gives recommendations and advice on public matters referred to it by the Council of Ministers.
The Emir is the Ruler of the State. Rule in Qatar is hereditary within the family of Al-Thani, whereby power is transferred from father to son. In case no son is available, power is transferred to the person whom the Emir chooses within the family of Al-Thani in accordance with the Emiri Decision No (3) for 1995 amending some provisions of the Amended Provisional Constitution on hereditary transfer of power.
The Heir Apparent is appointed in accordance with the manner stipulated in Article No (21) of the Constitution and carries the title of His Highness the Heir Apparent. Article (17) of the Amended Provisional Constitution authorizes the Emir to issue decrees based on the advice of the Council of Ministers and in consultation with the Advisory Council.
Article (18) gives executive powers to the Emir assisted by the Council of Ministers. The Emir thus holds both legislative and executive powers with the assistance of Council of Ministers and the Advisory Council.