By Stephanie van den Berg
The Hague (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates argued before World Court judges on Thursday that a case brought against it by Qatar for alleged discrimination against Qatari citizens was without merit and should be dismissed.
Qatar filed suit earlier this month at the court, formally known as the International Court of Justice, saying that measures the UAE put in place as part of a boycott against Qatar amount to forcible separation of families, in violation of an international treaty signed by both countries.
But UAE lawyers challenged that in its response on Thursday.
"The picture painted by Qatar in respect to what it refers to as the 'collective expulsion and entry ban' is completely misleading," UAE's agent, Tullio Treves, told the court.
He said the court should reject Qatar's suit out of hand, because Doha had not exhausted other remedies available to it to correct alleged violations of the treaty, including diplomacy.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a boycott on tiny, oil-rich Qatar in June 2017, severing diplomatic and transport ties and accusing it of supporting terrorism, which it denies.
The UAE and Qatar are both signatories of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which forbids discrimination on the basis of nationality. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt are not.
According to Qatar, the UAE have as part of the boycott expelled thousands of Qataris, blocked transport and closed down the offices of the Doha-based Al-Jazeera news channel. It has petitioned the court to order those measures to be provisionally reversed while it considers Qatar' full arguments.
The ICJ is the United Nations venue for legal disputes between countries. It usually rules on requests for provisional measures within weeks, though it has not yet set a date in Qatar's suit. If a case proceeds beyond that point, it usually takes several years to reach a formal judgment.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg, writing by Toby Sterling, editing by Larry King)