Rights group Amnesty International has warned FIFA, football’s governing body, against expanding the Qatar 2022 World Cup to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), raising human rights concerns in the Gulf nations, according to a British media report.
In a statement to the British online newspaper The Independent, published on Saturday, the United Kingdom-based rights group said that any plans to extend the tournament, due to be hosted by Qatar, must come with a call for both countries to improve their human rights records.
President Gianni Infantino had announced last month that FIFA is considering expanding the 2022 World Cup from 32 teams to 48, with the possibility of Qatar sharing the tournament with other countries in the Gulf region.
“Gianni Infantino’s idea comes at a time when both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are in the throes of cracking down on government critics and prominent human rights defenders,” Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs said.
Any expansion of the Qatar World Cup into Saudi Arabia and the UAE ought to come with a proper acknowledgement from FIFA of the need to for both countries to substantially improve their human rights records,” he said.
Amnesty’s call comes as Saudi Arabia faces global condemnation and growing pressure over the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain a document certifying his divorce.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been blamed and widely condemned for the murder – allegations denied by the kingdom.
“Not only have Saudi officials been involved in the grisly murder of Jamal Khashoggi, but jailed women’s rights activists have reportedly been tortured by electrocution and flogging in prison in Jeddah,” Hogarth said.
He also criticised the UAE for the sentencing of British academic Matthew Hedges to life in prison for spying and supplying sensitive security information to external actors after a “sham trial”.