Foreign human rights investigators arrested by Qatar government

Not a great couple weeks for Qatar, in their quest to present a good face to the Western world via soft power campaigns. The latest development was that two British human/labor rights investigators, representing a Norwegian organization, disappeared suddenly on assignment in Qatar. Al Jazeera America, the US arm of the Qatari royal family’s media empire, reported that the government had confirmed yesterday that it had arrested them. They are still in detention but have now been afforded access to representatives from the British embassy.

In the first official comments made by the emirate in regards to the missing men, Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said the pair were “being interrogated for having violated the provisions of the laws of the state of Qatar,” the Qatar News Agency reported.

The announcement follows calls on Qatar from rights groups including Amnesty International to reveal the whereabouts and ensure the safety of the two men, named as Krishna Upadhyaya and Ghimire Gundev.

Researcher Upadhyaya, 52, and Photographer Gundev, 36, work for the Norway-based Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD).

Both went missing on Aug. 31 as they were preparing to leave Qatar. GNRD had suggested that Qatari security services were behind their disappearance and has called for both men’s release.

On Sunday, the Qatari Foreign Ministry said that all actions taken against the men are “consistent with the principles of human rights” outlined in the laws of Qatar, and that British Embassy officials have visited them to check on their situation.

Qatar, slated to host the 2022 World Cup, has been plagued with serious and credible allegations of migrant worker abuse and enslavement generally, as well as specifically with relation to World Cup construction activities. Other British investigators delivered a damning report at the start of 2014 alleging that 4,000 enslaved workers were projected to die during World Cup preparation between now and 2022. The overall foreign worker population in Qatar is more than six times the size of the ruling Qatari population, at about 1.65 million to 250,000. The foreign population has grown very sharply in the past few years so the numbers are a bit hard to track. The ruling family and local citizens are extremely wealthy.

But the other recent development has been on the topic of Qatar’s increasingly hard to ignore state sponsorship of terrorism across the globe. It’s by no means new — involving a mix of official government money and “fundraising” by local and foreign Gulf-area plutocrats, all flowing into active conflict zones — but the condemnation is starting to intensify as Qatar continues to funnel donations, weapons, and ransom payments to extreme groups so destabilizing and threatening that virtually every other country in the area has opposed or abandoned them publicly, despite their own past histories with terror sponsorship. The cozy relationship that allows for easy “negotiation” with terrorist organizations holding kidnapped Western citizens is rapidly becoming more of a reputation liability than a strategic asset. Even Qatar’s support for somewhat more moderate organizations has been criticized heavily because it has become out of step with the agenda of the other regional powers.

(The New York Times today also attributed the rising criticism and attention in Western media to the fact that Qatar’s regional rivals have been hiring U.S. consulting firms in Washington to feed stories to journalists on the subject. But one also suspects that the sheer clash of Qatar’s soft power pretensions and modernizing aims with its terrorism ties and slave labor is a pretty tempting target for journalists anyway.)

For the latest discussion of 2018 Russian and 2022 Qatari World Cup controversies and potential consequences, listen to my radio segment with Nate on last week’s Arsenal For Democracy – Episode 98 Part 2:
Part 2 – Russian and Qatari World Cups – AFD 98

For our prior discussion of the problems surrounding the Qatar World Cup, listen to my radio segment with Nate on Arsenal For Democracy – Episode 87 Part 2 – FIFA/World Cup:
Part 2 – FIFA World Cup – AFD 87

Flag of Qatar.

Flag of Qatar.

July 23, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 93


Topics: Big Ideas in U.S. Reform — Is health care a human right? Central American unaccompanied children. People: Bill, Nate, Greg. Produced: July 20, 2014.

Discussion Points:

– Is health care a fundamental human right? Why or why not?
– What should be done about the wave of unaccompanied children arriving in the United States from Central America without permission?

Part 1 – Health care:
Part 1 – Health care – AFD 92
Part 2 – Unaccompanied children:
Part 2 – Unaccompanied children – AFD 93

To get one file for the whole episode, we recommend using one of the subscribe links at the bottom of the post.

Related links

AFD: Central American toddlers are existential threat to USA, say militias
AFD: Unaccompanied minors forced to defend themselves in court


RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

An end to Spanish universal jurisdiction?

The Spanish parliament has decided to consider a bill to limit “universal jurisdiction” currently granted to Spanish courts. This means that Spanish judges would no longer be able to rule on human rights violations not directly concerning Spain, an unusual power they currently hold and have used. The move comes immediately after a decision by a Spanish judge to pursue the arrest of China’s former president Jiang Zemin, as well as other officials, over human rights violations in Tibet.
Read more

Egypt: Don’t speak your mind, kids.

In every mass arrest by Egyptian security forces at political protests, an estimated 10-30% of those detained now are children, whether teens or younger. They are held indefinitely and often beaten.

This is what it looks like when the military “saves” democracy. Everyone who cheered the coup d’état last July should be ashamed of themselves.

Egypt: If civilian men don’t get you, the state will

flag-of-egyptRegional experts agree (discussed here previously): Egypt is, by far, the worst place to be a woman in the entire “Arab World” right now.

They’ve hidden that nasty reputation by distractingly pointing to real but less substantive issues like driving bans and clothing requirements in the Gulf states. But in terms of basic human rights, being female in Egypt is a pretty heinous experience right now. And when anything bad happens, their families often abandon them.

The latest affront is state-backed “virginity tests” on women detained by security services. This euphemism itself hides the reality of the situation: members of state security and quasi-medical professionals aggressively and intrusively “examining” (read: violating, since it’s not optional) women they believe have crossed some moral boundary, usually after having been assaulted by civilian men (an extremely frequent and ever-present threat since the fall of the Mubarak regime). These examinations are neither medical in nature nor scientifically based (unfortunately, in the West, many myths persist also about the topic — so don’t feel too superior, American readers).

To top it all off, the new dictator and future president is a vocal supporter of this violation as a regular tactic. 
Read more

Women in Egypt want their basic human rights back

egypt-coat-of-armsA recent survey of hundreds of gender experts from the region found Egypt to be the worst place for women in the Arab World right now, due to the chaos of the Arab Spring aftermath. Even Saudi Arabia came out ahead. Egypt has long had legal rights on paper for women, but in practice it hasn’t held up — and has gotten dramatically worse since the fall of the Mubarak government in early 2011.

9 in 10 women ages 15-49 have been mutilated, 99% have been aggressively harassed or sexually assaulted. Grievous assaults have occurred in full view of hundreds with no one intervening. Contrary to the messaging of opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood who claimed political Islam was the main threat to secular rights for women and others, the situation for Egyptian women has worsened even further under the military coup government installed in July of this year. Many of the pro-coup protesters have been among some of the worst public offenders. Now, Egyptian women are fighting back.

Trigger warning for the article linked above.

They hate us for our oil spills

The United States gets over 40% of its oil from the Niger Delta region. We get more oil from Nigeria than from Saudi Arabia. But there’s a lot of oil being pumped that’s never making it to any refinery because instead it’s ending up smothering the landscape across the region, which is always slick with oil, as I wrote in June…

How much is being spilled or is leaking? Well, right now there are about 300 incidents a year, and that has added up over the decades.

One report, compiled by WWF UK, the World Conservation Union and representatives from the Nigerian federal government and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, calculated in 2006 that up to 1.5m tons of oil – 50 times the pollution unleashed in the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster in Alaska – has been spilled in the delta over the past half century. Last year Amnesty calculated that the equivalent of at least 9m barrels of oil was spilled and accused the oil companies of a human rights outrage.

According to Nigerian federal government figures, there were more than 7,000 spills between 1970 and 2000, and there are 2,000 official major spillages sites, many going back decades, with thousands of smaller ones still waiting to be cleared up. More than 1,000 spill cases have been filed against Shell alone.

Last month Shell admitted to spilling 14,000 tonnes of oil in 2009. The majority, said the company, was lost through two incidents – one in which the company claims that thieves damaged a wellhead at its Odidi field and another where militants bombed the Trans Escravos pipeline.


While still images coming out of the region are shocking enough, intrepid Current TV correspondent Mariana van Zeller went into the Delta to get video footage of the literally omnipresent oil slicks and spewing wellheads, as well as to interview locals.

While rebels or other individuals damaging pipelines to steal or disrupt oil may be a problem, as the oil companies claim and the Western media dutifully repeats, one local Ogoni activist tells her simply that “the greatest problem we have is that these facilities are too old” and they just corrode away and start gushing oil into the surroundings. And in fact he believes that the violence against the oil companies and the government is probably a result from, not a cause of, the many crude spills. The organization he works for helped bring down the Nigerian dictatorship in the 1990s, ushering in a new, ostensibly more democratic era, and yet they still face the same problems from the oil, which is killing their people. The military government was unresponsive and often downright cruel, as my background post explored, and in some ways this aspect has improved under democracy, but “security” thugs hired by Shell and the other offenders continue to deter local efforts to seek justice. (I want to note that my post was at one point apparently being circulated on an internal corporate server of Shell Oil, according to my site statistics data.)

We made a huge deal out of the large multi-month oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico — and rightfully so — but we as a nation don’t bat an eye over the reality that Nigeria’s delta people have been experiencing what is tantamount to a pervasive, multi-decade oil slick in the same supply chain that is attempting to slake America’s oil thirst and led to that smaller oil catastrophe in our marine back yard. (Yes there was actually less oil going into the Gulf this summer than has been spilled almost continuously in the past five decades in the Niger Delta region!) But these days, as is often the case, it is “un-American” to question our consumer demands and resulting detrimental overseas policies, to suggest that we might be causing well-founded distrust and dissatisfaction from our fellow global citizens, or to propose that we alter the status quo to improve the lot of others and thereby secure ourselves.

1.5 million tons of oil spilled over a half century. God bless our SUVs, every one.

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