Two British human rights advocates who went missing in Doha a week ago were arrested by authorities here for “violating the provisions of the laws of the State of Qatar,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said.
In a statement, MOFA said that 52-year-old Krishna Upadhyaya and 36-year-old Ghimire Gundev were arrested on Aug. 31 and are being interrogated in a manner “consistent with the principles of human rights enshrined in the Constitution and the laws of the State of Qatar.”
The Qatar government did not provide any details on the specific nature of the offenses the men are alleged to have committed.
The two men, who are of Nepali descent, had been visiting Qatar to write a report on Nepali workers, according to their employer, Norway-based charity Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD).
The men lost communication with GNRD and friends and family last Sunday, after checking out of their hotel and complaining about being followed by plainclothes police officers during their trip.
They never boarded their flight home, and three days later, GNRD released a statement demanding answers from Qatar about their employees’ whereabouts.
In the latest turn of events, GNRD has posted a message from Upadhyaya to his family on its website, as conveyed by a British embassy official who visited the duo last night:
“I am well, I have been well looked after and I will be home soon. We have been arrested due to problems with our paperwork.”
It is not clear why the two men were apprehended and not allowed to reach their families or employer for an entire week because of paperwork issues.
The decision to detain Upadhyaya and Gundev is a rare move by authorities in Qatar, where foreign journalists and rights activists regularly investigate and critically report on the living and working conditions of migrants ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Some activists have expressed concern that the detentions signal a change in the government’s direction.
Others wondered if the men were targeted because of their employer, which appears to have ties to the UAE – a country that is involved in a months-long diplomatic dispute with Qatar.
Some observers have also noted several unusual features of GNRD’s operations. Its social media following appears artificially inflated and its sources of funding remains unclear. While the charity lists several companies as sponsors, there is no online trace of most of these firms.
The exception is a UAE consulting firm owned by a man with the same name as GNRD’s president.
When reached for comment, a UK embassy spokesperson told Doha News that consular assistance is being provided for the two men, but said further information could not be provided.