Russia: Human Rights Watch praises FIFA for supporting activist documenting abuses related to 2018 World Cup, but says it could do more; includes comments by FIFA

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23 April 2018

Welcome support for workers’ rights advocate in Russia

Author: Jane Buchanan, Human Rights Watch

Last week was my first time in a Russian appeals courtroom. I and a colleague were there to support Semyon Simonov, a Russian human rights defender, who is taking a case against police for misconduct. Simonov had worked with Human Rights Watch to document worker abuses on stadium construction sites for Russia’s June hosting of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. In April 2017, he planned to interview workers about their treatment and working conditions on the stadium site in Volgograd when police detained him – he believes arbitrarily – for several hours. Determined not to allow the police to get away with unlawful tactics and intimidation against him for carrying out lawful and legitimate human rights work, Simonov has been seeking accountability for his treatment ever since...FIFA, world football’s governing body, sent a representative too...This demonstration of support for Simonov and his work is...notable...In line with its commitment to protect “freedoms of human rights defenders and media representatives … including by using its leverage with the relevant authorities” FIFA could question the FSB’s designation of Simonov as “a person under particular control” and publicly affirm their backing of the work of rights defenders.

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Company response
22 April 2018

Response by FIFA

Author: FIFA

FIFA welcomes the acknowledgement by Human Rights Watch of FIFA’s efforts in support of Semyon Simonov. These activities are a reflection of FIFA’s belief that all those who advocate for human rights to be upheld need to be able to do so freely and without fear of reprisals. Any activity that limits the important and legitimate work of human rights defenders therefore is in opposition to the values FIFA stands for. FIFA is fully committed to implementing its own responsibility to respect and help protect the rights of human rights defenders who work to advance human rights in relation to FIFA’s activities in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights...FIFA is currently in the process of finalising a more detailed statement on human rights defenders and media representatives specifying this broad commitment and takes a series of measures to implement its commitments. This includes for instance the development of a complaints reporting mechanism for human rights defenders and media representatives, which FIFA intends to launch in due course...As outlined by Human Rights Watch in its article, FIFA has taken a series of measures in support of Mr Simonov, including the attendance of a court hearing in February 2018. As part of these efforts, FIFA has repeatedly stated its position that Mr. Simonov, and indeed all human rights defenders working to advance human rights in relation to FIFA’s activities, need to be able to go about their work without restrictions, which includes freedom from being surveilled.

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