Human rights violations stain the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar

Qatar's record on human rights, arguably, been discussed more than the football games.

The "Correspondent's Guide" report sheds light on the most prominent issues of workers' rights and the necessary reforms. Ahmad Abdul-Rahman explains.

Human Rights Watch said that the "FIFA World Cup 2022" comes after years of gross violations of the rights of migrant workers and human rights in Qatar. This coincides with the publication of the "Correspondents' Guide" to support journalists covering the tournament, which started in Qatar on November 20 and ends on December 18, 2022.

The 42-page guide, "Qatar: FIFA World Cup 2022 - A Human Rights Handbook for Reporters," summarises Human Rights Watch's concerns related to Qatar's preparations for and hosting of the FIFA World Cup. The guide reveals broader problems related to the protection of human rights in the country. It also describes FIFA's human rights policies and how the world's governing body of football can more effectively address and mitigate serious abuses in Qatar.

"The World Cup attracts tremendous attention from international media and fans, but soccer has a dark side to the tournament," said Minky Worden, global initiatives director at Human Rights Watch. "The legacy of the 2022 World Cup hinges on whether Qatar and FIFA address the deaths of migrant workers who built the facilities and stadiums of the tournament, implemented the latest labour reforms, and protected the rights of everyone in Qatar, not just the visiting fans and players."

FIFA awarded Qatar the right to stage the tournament in 2010, without conducting human rights due diligence and making no provision for the protection of migrant workers needed to construct the massive infrastructure. FIFA also failed to examine the human rights concerns of journalists, or the systemic discrimination women face in Qatar. In 2017, FIFA adopted a human rights policy, pledging to take "measures to strengthen the protection of human rights," saying, "FIFA will take appropriate measures to protect them, including by using its influence over the relevant authorities."

Migrant workers' rights

FIFA should have known that migrant workers' rights would be a problem because Qatar lacked the infrastructure needed for the World Cup, so millions of expatriate workers would be needed to build and service it. This included eight stadiums, airport expansion, a new metro, several hotels, and other key infrastructure. It would cost an estimated USD 220 billion.

FIFA is not only responsible for stadium workers, a minority of the total expatriate workforce whose employers are held to higher standards of workplace conditions (less than one per cent) but also for construction and service workers on projects to prepare for and deliver the tournament, including transportation, accommodation, security, cleaning and landscaping.

Human Rights Watch said that despite repeated warnings by workers themselves and civil society organisations, FIFA failed to impose strong conditions to protect them. It also became an enabling factor for the widespread mistreatment workers suffered, including illegal recruitment fees, wage theft (ie employers not paying wages) injuries, and deaths.

FIFA is responsible for identifying and addressing these violations in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, adopted by FIFA in its statutes in 2016, and its human rights policy adopted in 2017. FIFA also has sufficient resources to compensate these workers. Revenues from the World Cup 2022 revenues are expected to reach more than 6 billion dollars.

Major labour reforms introduced by the Qatari authorities came late or were implemented poorly and did not benefit many workers.

In May 2022, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organisations, trade unions, and fan associations pressed FIFA and Qatari authorities in a joint open letter and campaign to provide redress for abuses suffered by workers, including financial compensation for wage theft or injuries, and to families of the deceased.

Women's right

In a report released in 2021, Human Rights Watch documented how Qatari laws, regulations, and practices enforce discriminatory guardianship rules that give men authority and deny women the right to make important decisions about their lives. Women in Qatar are forced to obtain permission from their male guardians to marry, study abroad on government scholarships, work in various government jobs, travel abroad up to a certain age, and access certain forms of reproductive health care.

On November 7, 2022, the Qatari organizing body for the World Cup, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, told Human Rights Watch that it would provide shelters and clinics for psychological support, health care, forensic medicine, and legal support for victims of abuse during the World Cup.

On November 9, FIFA told Human Rights Watch that "FIFA is confident that women will have full access to medical care, including any care related to a possible pregnancy, regardless of the circumstances and without asking questions about marital status".

Freedom of expression and freedom of the press

Qatar's penal code criminalises criticising the emir, insulting the Qatari flag, insulting religion, including apostasy, and incitement to "overthrow the government". Qatar's Cybercrime Law of 2014 provides for a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine of 500,000 Qatari riyals (USD 137,000,000) for anyone convicted of publishing "false news" online, without defining what it is, or "infringing on any of the social principles or values", or "assaulting others by insult or defamation". Some international journalists have been arrested while working in Qatar, forced to confess, and their work destroyed.

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Sunday, 26 March 2023