Two British men have been reported missing after travelling to Qatar to investigate the treatment of Nepalese migrant workers there. The assumption is that the Qatari authorities did not like what they were doing, and arrested them.
Migrant workers in Qatar, especially in the construction industry, often live and work in appalling conditions, and this certainly deserves to be investigated. But there may be more to the men's disappearance than meets the eye. It seems possible they have become caught up in a squabble between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Krishna Upadhyaya, 52, and Gundev Ghimire, 36, were working for the Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD) which is based in Norway and has offices in Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Sudan, Jordan and the UAE.
GNRD was established in 2008 "to enhance and support both human rights and development by adopting new strategies and policies for real change". It claims to be "a neutral and impartial organisation". Fifteen of its staff are accredited for access to the European Parliament. It has an annual budget of 3.5 million Euros, almost all of which comes from unspecified donations.
GNRD issues reports and press releases about a wide range of issues and countries, but some of these raise questions about how "neutral and impartial" it really is. It has been critical of Qatar (and rightly so) but it seems to have a remarkably soft spot for the UAE.
A search of its website reveals several enthusiastic reports about the UAE's achievements. One enthuses about the role of women in the UAE. One talks about the UAE's "achievements in the field of promoting and protecting the family and its members". Others praise the UAE for its environmental efforts, for the way it cares for the disabled and protects the rights of children.
The GNRD file
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GNRD also compiles a global human rights league table (IHRRI) which it describes as the "most trustful and complete international human rights rank indicator".
Its league table currently ranks the UAE in 13th position worldwide, just one place behind the UK and far ahead of any other Arab country – a point which the Emirati newspaper The National was quick to note. Qatar, incidentally, is ranked in 90th position.
Given this background, it would not be very surprising if the Qatari authorities assumed – rightly or wrongly – that GNRD's investigation had some political motive behind it.
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Thursday, 4 September 2014