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    July 31, 2017
      By James Lynch, Deputy head of Global Issues at Amnesty International   The Gulf crisis that erupted in early June, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain announcing an immediate restriction of relations with Qatar, more recently has turned into a very public war of words, with political arguments being played out through satellite TV channels and newspaper opinion pages.   The restrictions imposed have seen families from across the Gulf separated, students thrown off courses and governments ordering their citizens to return home. The measures have drawn widespread censure for violating people’s rights from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.     But one of the most striking shifts generated by the crisis is the sudden interest governments and institutions from across the region have developed in the welfare of migrant workers in Qatar.  
    May 18, 2017

    Migrant workers on Qatar 2022 World Cup construction sites continue to suffer abuse and exploitation, Amnesty International said today as the country’s flagship football venue hosts the first match since its redevelopment.

    Companies involved in the renovation of Khalifa International Stadium subjected their workers to systematic labour abuse which Amnesty International exposed last year. The stadium will be inaugurated on Friday evening – one month

    after independent auditors published fresh details of ongoing exploitation of migrant workers across World Cup projects.

    April 20, 2017

    The Qatari authorities must not buckle to demands from Saudi Arabia if they request the deportation of human rights activist Mohammad al-Otaibi back to the country, where he is at risk of being imprisoned and tortured or otherwise ill-treated, said Amnesty International, ahead of a hearing by a Saudi Arabian court scheduled for Tuesday 25 April.

    Mohammad al-Otaibi, a peaceful activist, and founder of a local human rights organization, is being tried in his absence before Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court on a list of ludicrous charges. There are serious fears that he could be deported at any time. He told Amnesty International that Saudi Arabia’s secret police, known as al-Mabahith, have been calling him and asking about his whereabouts.

    March 17, 2017

    The International Labour Organization (ILO)’s governing body must continue to scrutinize Qatar’s record on migrant labour abuse, Amnesty International said, ahead of a crucial 21 March decision on a complaint brought by trade unions against the Gulf state.

    Last week the government stated it had “repealed” its controversial sponsorship law, including the requirement that migrant workers obtain an exit permit from their employers to leave the country. Amnesty International does not accept this claim and considers that there are not currently sufficient grounds to close the complaint against Qatar. The organization is calling for the ILO’s complaint process to continue, in line with a draft decision issued ahead of Tuesday’s session.

    “This is a critical juncture for migrant workers in Qatar. The government has made some public commitments in response to ILO pressure, but its claims that it has abolished the sponsorship system simply do not add up,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues Programme.

    December 12, 2016

    Changes to labour laws in Qatar barely scratch the surface and will continue to leave migrant workers, including those building stadiums and infrastructure for the World Cup, at the mercy of exploitative bosses and at risk of forced labour, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.

    New name, old system? Qatar’s new employment law and abuse of migrant workers, details the failings of Qatar’s meagre labour reforms which the government has said will overhaul key aspects of the country’s sponsorship system. The briefing warns that the risk of forced labour and other abuses remains high for migrant workers, including those building World Cup stadiums, transport infrastructure and other key facilities like hotels.

    December 01, 2016

    In response to the news that access to Doha News, Qatar’s leading independent English language daily news site has been blocked to internet users inside the country, James Lynch, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Global Issues said:

    “This is an alarming setback for freedom of expression in the country. Deliberately blocking people in Qatar from accessing a legitimate news website would be an outright attack on media freedom.

     “As the nation that founded the Al Jazeera media network and which hosts a centre dedicated to promoting global media freedom, Qatar should be at the forefront of those championing freedom of the press.

    May 03, 2016

    The convictions of three Filipino nationals on charges of espionage were yesterday upheld by Qatar’s Court of Cassation. The Court upheld one life term and two sentences of 15 years’ imprisonment.

    James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle and North Africa programme, said:

    “The court’s decision to uphold the convictions of these three men, after an unfair trial in which the authorities totally failed to investigate credible allegations of torture, is the latest demonstration of the deep flaws in Qatar’s criminal justice system, particularly as regards its treatment of migrant workers”.

    “The authorities should immediately announce a full investigation into these men’s torture allegations and review the way these trials have been conducted. All torture-tainted evidence must be excluded.”

    “This case speaks volumes about the sincerity of the government’s stated commitment to extend justice to migrant workers.”

    Background

    April 22, 2016

    Responding to FIFA's announcement of a new oversight body to monitor working conditions on stadiums for the 2022 World Cup Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International's Gulf Migrants Rights Researcher said: 

    “Finally it appears FIFA is waking up to the fact that unless it takes concrete action, the Qatar 2022 World Cup will be built on the blood, sweat and tears of migrant workers. 

    “The announcement of an oversight body and Infantino's admission that FIFA must take human rights seriously are welcome steps in the right direction. Amnesty has already exposed human rights abuses on the Khalifa stadium and the surrounding Aspire Green Zone which need addressing right now. These cases also demonstrate the need to ensure FIFA's human rights monitoring is not limited just to stadiums but includes all other activities linked to the tournament.” 

     

    For more information please call Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations. 416-36-9933 ext 332 bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca

    April 14, 2016
    Released 8:30 EDT / 13:30 BST 14 April 2016   FIFA President Gianni Infantino cannot afford to continue the organization’s indifference to human rights abuses in Qatar, said Amnesty International today, following the publication of a report identifying major shortcomings in FIFA’s policies and practices.   FIFA hired John Ruggie, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, to review and report on the organization’s business practices in December 2015. While the report sets out broad organizational human rights reforms, it does not specifically tackle the human rights crisis in Qatar, where thousands of World Cup workers are at risk of abuse.   “FIFA has had its head in the sand about the abuses in Qatar for more than five years, telling itself and the world that the Qatari authorities will fix things. That has not happened, and now only concerted FIFA action to prevent abuses on World Cup sites will save the soul of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar,” said Mustafa Qadri, Gulf Migrants’ Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.
    March 30, 2016

    Released 00.01 BST (01:01 GMT) 31 March 2016

    First evidence of migrant exploitation on 2022 World Cup site

    Migrant workers building Khalifa International Stadium in Doha for the 2022 World Cup have suffered systematic abuses, in some cases forced labour, Amnesty International reveals in a new report published today.

    The report, “The ugly side of the beautiful game: Labour exploitation on a Qatar 2022 World Cup venue”, blasts FIFA’s shocking indifference to appalling treatment of migrant workers. The number of people working on World Cup sites is set to surge almost ten-fold to around 36,000 in the next two years.

    “The abuse of migrant workers is a stain on the conscience of world football. For players and fans, a World Cup stadium is a place of dreams. For some of the workers who spoke to us, it can feel like a living nightmare,” said Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty.

    “Despite five years of promises, FIFA has failed almost completely to stop the World Cup being built on human rights abuses.”

    March 16, 2016

    The release last night of Mohammed al-‘Ajami, also known as Ibn al-Dheeb, is a welcome development that ends a needless four year ordeal for the Qatari poet.

    Amnesty International has spoken to Mohammed al-‘Ajami’s legal representative, who said that relatives of the poet confirmed to him that the poet was released around 7.30pm Doha time on 15 March. The organization has also seen video footage of him after his release.

    “The release of Mohammed al-‘Ajami is long overdue good news,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program,

    “It is absurd that he had to spend more than four years behind bars, when his poetry was simply the peaceful expression of his conscientiously held beliefs.

    “We hope that the authorities will take the opportunity of this release to review Qatar’s criminal justice system and ensure that such flagrant violations of the right to freedom of expression are not repeated. This case has been a blight on Qatar’s international reputation.”

    November 30, 2015

    Released 00:01 GMT 01 December 2015

    Labour exploitation remains rampant in Qatar as the authorities fail to deliver significant reforms, Amnesty International said today before the fifth anniversary of Qatar winning the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

    Despite massive public exposure of the appalling conditions faced by most migrant construction workers, the Qatari authorities have done almost nothing effective to end chronic labour exploitation.

    “Too little has been done to address rampant migrant labour abuse. Qatar’s persistent labour reform delays are a recipe for human rights disaster,” said Mustafa Qadri, Gulf Migrant Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.

    “The reforms proposed by the government fail to tackle the central issues that leave so many workers at the mercy of employers, yet even these changes have been delayed.

    “Unless action is taken – and soon – then every football fan who visits Qatar in 2022 should ask themselves how they can be sure they are not benefiting from the blood, sweat and tears of migrant workers.

    November 10, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT  11 November 2015

    The continuing imprisonment of the jailed poet Mohammed al-‘Ajami, widely known as Ibn al-Dheeb, underscores the Qatari government’s shameful disregard for freedom of expression, said Amnesty International today in the run up to the fourth anniversary of his detention.

    The government arrested the well-known Qatari poet on 16 November 2011 for writing and reciting a poem deemed critical of Qatar’s ruling family. He is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence, confirmed after an unfair trial.

    “It is tragic and absurd that Mohammed al-‘Ajami has been languishing in prison for nearly four years simply for reciting a poem that did not incite any violence. His arbitrary imprisonment and ludicrous 15-year sentence are the shameful result of the Qatari authorities’ inability to tolerate criticism and their disregard for the right to freedom of expression,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    May 20, 2015

    Released 00:01 BST Thursday 21 May 2015

    More than a year after Qatar’s government promised limited reforms to improve migrant labour rights, hopes of true progress are fading fast, says Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.

    The briefing, Promising little, delivering less: Qatar and migrant labour abuse ahead of the 2022 Football World Cup, features a ‘scorecard’ that rates the authorities’ response to nine fundamental migrant labour rights issues identified by Amnesty International. A year later, only limited progress has been achieved on five of these issues, in four areas the authorities have failed to make any improvements.

    “Qatar is failing migrant workers. Last year the government made plenty of promises to improve migrant labour rights in Qatar, but in practice, there have been no significant advances in the protection of rights,” said Mustafa Qadri, Gulf migrant rights researcher at Amnesty International.

    March 06, 2015

    Qatar must urgently investigate allegations that a Filipino man who was held in solitary confinement for over four years was repeatedly tortured, said Amnesty International ahead of an appeal hearing in his case on 9 March.

    Ronaldo Lopez Ulep, 48, a former civilian employee of Qatar’s Air Force was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of spying in 2014 for allegedly passing on information about his employer.

    Two other Filipino men involved in the case were also found guilty, apparently of espionage. One has been sentenced to death. According to court documents, all three told the court that their “confessions” were extracted through torture and other ill-treatment.

    “Given the fact that Ronaldo Lopez Ulep was held in solitary confinement for four years prior to his trial, his allegation that he was repeatedly tortured in order to force him to ‘confess’, and the use of this ‘confession’ in his trial, his conviction is clearly unsafe,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

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