By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Managing Editor Impunity Watch
DOHA, Qatar – On Monday Theo Zwanziger, Executive Committee member for the Fédération International de Football Association (FIFA) suggested that the Committee may choose to remove the 2022 World Cup from Qatar, which has been preparing for the games for years. According to the FIFA official the decision will come down to one factor: Extreme heat. However, if true, the decision to strip Qatar of the World Cup followed months of international criticism of the Gulf State’s treatment of migrant workers and complaints of slave labor conditions for workers at the World Cup sites.
Theo Zwanziger, the former German soccer association (DFB) chief said that the most widely watched tournament in sports will have to be held somewhere else due to health concerns over the extreme heat that players will experience in the Qatari desert. “I personally think that in the end the 2022 World Cup will not take place in Qatar,” he said. “Medics say that they cannot accept responsibility with a World Cup taking place under these conditions.”
Qatar remains adamant that it will host the 2022 World Cup. “The only question now is when, not if,” Qatar 2022 communications director Nasser Al Khater said in a statement. He added “summer or winter, we will be ready.” The oil-rich Gulf state insists that it will be able to use state of the art cooling technologies currently being developed for stadiums, training areas and fan zones. However, there FIFA officials still cite concerns over the health of players and fans; “they may be able to cool the stadiums but a World Cup does not take place only there,” Zwanziger said. “Fans from around the world will be coming and traveling in this heat and the first life-threatening case will trigger an investigation by a state prosecutor. That is not something that FIFA Exco members want to answer for.”
Labor rights activists have raised concerns about dangerous working conditions and have made allegations about unpaid salaries and other abuses of workers’ rights. The Qatari economy is heavily dependent on large numbers of low-paid migrant workers, many of whom ar brought from Asia.
Two weeks ago the Qatari government confirmed that it is holding two British citizens who went missing while researching migrant labor conditions in the country, saying that the men are being questioned about possible illegal activities in the country. The confirmation came after Amnesty International urged authorities to reveal the men’s whereabouts and insure their safety. The Norway-based Global Network for Rights and Development reported that the two British citizens, a researcher, Krishna Upadhyaya, 52, and a photographer, Ghimire Gundev, 36, went missing on Aug. 31 as they were preparing to leave the country.
While at least one high ranking FIFA officials believes Qatar will be stripped of its hosting duties for the 2022 FIFA World Cup because of concerns over extreme heat, the organization has faced criticism for choosing the Gulf State to host the games despite concerns over human rights abuses in the country. Any decision by FIFA to remove the tournament from Qatar on the bases of temperature concerns will likely be interpreted as an attempt by FIFA save face as the organization has been continually criticized by activists as new allegations of abuses in Qatar continue to surface.
For more information please see:
Al Jazeera – Qatar Won’t Host the World Cup: FIFA Official – 22 September 2014
Fortune – FIFA May Pull 2022 World Cup from Qatar ‘On Medical Grounds’ – Exec – 22 September 2014
Reuters – Qatar Adamant it will Host 2022 World Cup Despite Doubts – 22 September 2014
The New York Times – Officials in Qatar Confirm Detention of Britons – 8 September 2014
By Hojin Choi
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghanistan’s Election Commission finally announced Ashraf Ghani as the president-elect. The announcement was made Sunday after Ghani and the runner up, Abdullah Abdullah, signed a power-sharing deal. Ghani’s presidential inauguration will be held on September 29.
The Commission Chief, Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani, stated that “[t]he Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan declared Dr. Asraf Ghani . . . as the president of Afghanistan.” This announcement will end the political chaos following the presidential runoff on June 14. While experiencing nationwide terrorists’ attacks on the day of election, Candidate Abdullah insisted election fraud and vote rigging, and his supporters denied the election result. At the time, millions of ballots were suspected of fraud, and Abdullah’s supporters warned to establish “parallel governments.”
The Election Commission went on to review polling stations and ballot papers under a U.N. audit, but the result was unsuccessful.
“Although the audit was comprehensive . . . [we] could not detect or throw out fraud completely,” said Commission Chief Nuristani. The commission withheld the final election numbers. Nuristani said the commission will announce it later, but did not specify when. He did not take further questions from reporters.
The details of the power-sharing deal were not disclosed to the public. Reportedly, Abdullah will be in a position named “Chief Executive” that is similar to prime minister. They will also share powers over controlling the nation’s institutes and government agencies, including the military forces. The incumbent president, Karzai, made clear that the former government and administration will not be responsible for the deal and that Ghani and Abdullah will have to work on fulfilling the commitment.
The public reaction varied. The Afghan public seems happy for the end of months of political unrest, but some worried with the possible effects of the deal. Afghan resident Sharifullah told Voice of America that he was disappointed because the hardship people suffered through to vote while under the violence of terrorists was wasted. He added the political deal would harm the principle of democracy in Afghanistan.
The U.N. and the U.S. both welcomed the agreement and described it as an important step toward achieving social stability in Afghanistan. TIME reported that the deal is a “victory for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry,” as he is the one who first got the candidates to agree in principle to the power-sharing arrangement when he visited Afghanistan in July. TIME also said he revisited to seal the deal in August. John Kerry stated that Ghani and Abdullah have “put the people of Afghanistan first, and they have ensured that the first peaceful democratic transition in the history of their country begins with national unity.”
For more information, please see:
TIME – Afghanistan Finally Has a New President – 21 September 2014
BBC – Afghan presidential contenders sign unity deal – 21 September 2014
Voice of America – Ashraf Ghani Named President-elect in Afghanistan – 21 September 2014
By Lyndsey Kelly
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
MEXICO CITY, Mexico – On 21 September, Mexican authorities issued an alert concerning a toxic spill into a river due to a copper mine run by the company Grupo Mexico. Grupo Mexico operates a $1 billon a year Buenavista mine in Cananea, Sonora, which produces nearly 200,000 tons of copper.
The chemical, which is used to dissolve copper from ore, turned a 60km stretch of Sonora River the color orange. The spillage caused the authorities to shut down the municipal water supply to seven towns, affecting more than 20,000 people. Officials in the northern state of Sonora also asked that citizens to not use any water from the Bacanuchi River.
Carlos Arias, the civil protection director for the border state of Sonora, stated that his department is taking measures to ensure people and livestock do not come in contact with the water until it can be tested. The Sonora state civil protection agency said it would end its relationship with Grupo Mexico, due to the company’s continuing discharge of toxic substances into the water supply. The recent spill comes jut weeks after a spill of 40,000 cubic meters.
On 6 August, two rivers were contaminated by a spill due to the mining giant, causing thousand of residents to be left without clean water. The spill was recorded as the worst environmental disaster in Mexican history by a mining industry. The contamination forced authorities to shut down hundreds of water wells and distribute millions of liters of water in trucks. At least five individuals sought medical attention after coming into contact with the polluted water.
More than a quarter of Mexico’s mining activity is located in the north-western region. Thus making it Mexico’s top producer of gold, copper and graphite. Grupo Mexico reached an agreement with the Mexican Government, in which Grupo would create a trust to pay for all environmental damage caused by toxic spills. The company has since set up a $150 million trust.
For more information, please see the following:
ABC NEWS – Western Mexico State Reports New Mine Spill -21 Sept. 2014
BBC – Mexico’s Sonora State Reports New Mine Spill – 21 Sept. 2014.
BLOOMBERG – Grupo Mexico Spill Sparks Scrutiny of $150 Million Cleanup – 17 Sept. 2014.
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Grupo Mexico To Set Aside $150 Million for Mine Spill Cleanup – 11 Sept. 2014.