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6 Dec 2021

Human Rights Watch

FIFA: Ensure Fair Trial of World Cup Whistleblower

FIFA should publicly call on the Qatari authorities to ensure a fair trial for the detained former employee of Qatar’s World Cup organizers, Human Rights Watch and FairSquare said in a letter to FIFA on November 19, 2021...

“Increasingly it appears that Abdullah Ibhais is in jail because of suspicion and paranoia, not any evidence of wrongdoing,” said Nick McGeehan, director of FairSquare. “It is probable he will remain there until FIFA accepts a basic level of responsibility for his well-being and demands that he gets the fair trial that he deserves.”

An analysis of a Qatari police report and witness statements show that the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, Ibhais’s employer and FIFA’s partner in Qatar, handed over highly sensitive and apparently unsubstantiated and vague allegations that Ibhais was engaged in activities aimed at “harming the state or its security.” Ibhais was initially arrested on November 12, 2019, and told Human Rights Watch and FairSquare on September 22 that interrogators used the subsequent initiation of a State Security investigation to coerce him into confessing to the lesser charge of bribery and misuse of state funds. This confession, which Ibhais retracted in court, remains the only inculpatory evidence presented against him. The court rejected Ibhais’s plea to invalidate the confession on the basis that it was extracted under threat and coercion and during interrogations that denied him the presence of a lawyer...

FIFA’s human rights policy stipulates that, “FIFA helps protect those who advocate respect for human rights associated with its activities and is committed to contributing to providing remedy where individuals have been adversely affected by activities associated with FIFA.” Ibhais lodged a complaint through FIFA’s BKMS system, a platform for anyone who believes their rights have been infringed on in relation to work associated with FIFA, on September 21. FIFA issued a formal reply on the same system stating that “we will continue to follow this closely … with a view to ensuring that any trial is fair and that due process is respected.” There was no further communication with Ibhais, and he said that FIFA’s human rights manager stopped responding to his messages on October 5.