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Friday, June 25, 2021

Updated: Two British-Nepali human rights advocates disappear in Qatar

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Ghimire Gundev and Krishna Upadhyaya of the Global Network for Rights and Development.
Ghimire Gundev and Krishna Upadhyaya of the Global Network for Rights and Development.

Updated at 8pm to include more information about GNRD

A Norwegian human rights organization has said two of its employees who traveled to Qatar to investigate the condition of Nepalese migrant workers have gone missing after complaining about being followed by plainclothes police officers.

The two missing men are 52-year-old Krishna Upadhyaya and 36-year-old Ghimire Gundev, British human rights advocates of Nepali origin who arrived in Qatar last week to conduct research for an upcoming report, the Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD) said in a statement.

GNRD said the men never boarded their Aug. 31 flight out of Qatar and that the individuals have not contacted their employer or their family members. The organization is concerned the men are being detained by local police.

If GNRD’s suspicions are correct, the detentions would be a rare move by local security forces here. In Qatar, foreign journalists and human rights activists regularly investigate the living and working conditions of migrants and publicly report their critical findings.

The unusual report of missing advocates has prompted some to question if the men were targeted because of their employer, which has appeared to be sympathetic to the UAE – a nation currently involved in a diplomatic dispute with Qatar.

Nevertheless, officials from other human rights organizations say the possibility of Qatar security services undertaking “forced disappearances” is a serious issue and that the men must be permitted to contact their families and embassies if they are indeed being held in custody.

Losing contact

Upon arriving to Doha in late August, Upadhyaya and Gunde had been coordinating with Nepali embassy officials, and had complained about being followed by plainclothes police officers in Qatar during their stay, GNRD said.

At one point, a Nepali diplomat accompanying the men informed authorities of his status and told police to stop following them, the charity said.

Speaking to Doha News, GNRD said one of the last communications from the men were a pair of text messages Upadhyaya sent on Aug. 30 to a friend in Norway. The first message read:

“Contact Mr. *** (officer from the Nepalese embassy) at the embassy as soon as possible.” The second message, just four minutes later, said: “I am being followed by the police here. Looks like they will give me troubles now”

Upadhyaya and Gundev were scheduled to leave Doha on Sunday, Aug. 31, which is the last time both their relatives and GNRD heard from them. The charity said the British embassy in Doha said Upadhyaya checked out from the Grand Hyatt but did not board his flight.

In response to a request from comment, a UK embassy spokesperson told Doha News that it was aware of reports that the men are missing, “and we are looking into them.”

Meanwhile, a representative of the Nepali embassy confirmed that the men had approached them to work on their report, but said they did not have any further information on their whereabouts.

In separate statements, the families of both men, who have two children each, urged their immediate release.

This was not the first time Upadhyaya had visited Qatar, according to GNRD Chief Executive Manager Evgenia Kondrakhina. She added that she was not sure if Gundev had previously entered the country, but noted he has extensively researched issues involving Nepalese migrants.

Human Rights Watch researcher Nick McGeehan told Doha News that Upadhyaya previously worked for Anti-Slavery International, where he knew him to be a well-respected employee.

However, when asked, McGeehan said that while he knows of GNRD, he’s never had any dealings with the organization.

GNRD questions

GNRD was founded in Norway in 2008 and said it has branches in Austria, Belgium, Jordan, Spain, Sudan, Switzerland, the UAE and Zambia.

The organization appears to be very popular on social media, having attracted 1.14 million followers to its Twitter account – almost as many as Amnesty International’s 1.16 million.

Twitter Audit

However, unlike Amnesty, GNRD does not tweet regularly. Furthermore, many of the Norwegian organization’s followers have not uploaded a profile photo or tweeted themselves.

In part due to these factors, the organization failed to pass muster on Twitter Audit, which assesses credibility scores based on number of tweets, date of the last tweet and ratio of followers to friend.

According to the program, some 1.3 million of the followers of the account are fake, while about 5,677 are real.

However, in a follow-up interview with Doha News, GNRD’s Kondrakhina credited the organization’s large social media presence to its extensive work with youth around the world and rejected the suggestion that most of the accounts were fake.

“Our followers are real,” she said.

Meanwhile, the 2012 and 2013 activity reports posted on GNRD’s website contain lists of statements and presentations made by the organization, as well as events it organized, but no financial information.

Sponsors

Kondrakhina said GNRD is primarily funded by private companies and referred to the firms listed on the organization’s website.

Doha News was not able to find a website or any online mention for several of the companies listed. An image search suggested that the sponsors’ logos are only published online on GNRD’s website and, in two cases, come from stock imagery libraries.

One of the organization’s sponsors, Deeb Consulting, is a UAE-based firm run by Loai Mohammed Deeb – the same name of GNRD’s president.

Additionally, GNRD raised eyebrows late last year when its International Human Rights Rank Indicator ranked the UAE as the 14th-best country in the world for human rights. (The current rankings place the UAE in 12th position. Qatar ranks 92nd.)

However, Kondrakhina said the organization does not receive any funding from the UAE government.

GNRD said it has previously lobbied European politicians to take a stronger stand on migrants’ rights, highlighting the plight of Nepalese workers in Qatar among other cases.

Following promises over the past year by the Qatar government to implement measures aimed at curbing abuses, Kondrakhina said GNRD sent the two men to investigate whether anything had changed for workers in the country.

Kondrakhina said she had no insights into why the two men were apparently targeted by police. She added:

“I cannot answer that … It is normal for human rights experts to go and investigate in certain countries, especially when there is concern (expressed by) international organizations.”

Other experiences

Since it was awarded 2022 World Cup hosting rights nearly four years ago, Qatar has been under intense international scrutiny over the treatment of migrant workers here.

Blue-collar workers, including hundreds of thousands of expats from Nepal, are primarily fueling the nation’s infrastructure boom ahead of the tournament.

So far, it appears that most journalists and rights groups have visited the country and reported on labor issues with few problems.

However, last year, two German broadcasters said they were detained by Qatar police during their stay here.

In October, filmmaker Peter Giesel, 45, and 25-year-old cameraman Robin Ahne entered Qatar on tourist visas to produce a package for Sky Sports Germany on the plight of migrant workers.

Speaking to Doha News, Giesel said he and Ahne spent Oct. 3 speaking with workers near the Nepali embassy and had returned to their hotel room at the Mercure Grand when the police knocked on their door.

Giesel added that the two were taken into custody and interrogated until about midnight, when they were allowed to return to their hotel room to collect their equipment.

But Giesel was not allowed to respond to several missed calls from his wife, who was pregnant at the time. And during their 21 hours in jail, neither man was able to contact anyone for help, including their embassy or family members.

Speaking to the Guardian about the interrogation, the filmmaker said:

“They said they just wanted to talk to us, but it wasn’t clear about what. But the interrogations went on for several hours and then the security police got involved. They were talking about us sparking a riot by talking to the workers … and that’s why we got detained and put in jail.”

The two men were released from jail with the help of the German embassy, who was alerted to their disappearance by Giesel’s wife.

The filmmaker said an official from the Qatar News Agency, where foreign journalists are required to register when coming to Doha, picked them up from jail and invited them to visit the country again.

Looking forward

McGeehan, of Human Rights Watch, said employees of his organization have not been harassed by police in Qatar:

“We’ve always felt secure in Qatar and been assured of our safety by authorities … It’s one of the things that Qatar has done well.”

He added that he hoped the disappearance of the GNRD employees doesn’t indicate a change in the government’s direction.

McGeehan also emphasized that the men should have the right to conduct their research and, if they are being held in custody, be permitted to contact with families and the embassy.

Late on Thursday, Said Boumedouha – the deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme – echoed these sentiments in a statement:

“If the Qatari authorities have detained these men, they must reveal why, where and if any charges are being brought against them. Both must also have access to lawyers of their choice and be protected from torture and other ill-treatment while in custody.

Unless these men are to be charged with an internationally recognizable criminal offence, remanded by a civilian court in a public hearing and brought to trial promptly and fairly, both must be immediately and unconditionally released.”

Thoughts?

55 COMMENTS

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fullmoon07
fullmoon07
6 years ago

surely this country is so big that you can easily get lost!

AEC
AEC
6 years ago

What’s the point of your “British-Nepali” headline? These men are British nationals travelling on British passports. Is including their ethnicity meant to make some sort of point?

Guest
Guest
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

It’s a valid point to make, as red tape will start bouncing between the British and Nepali embassies. Will they coordinate or will one of them try to offload this clearly difficult issue on the other?

Guest
Guest
6 years ago
Reply to  Guest

And here I’m assuming they hold dual nationalities

Diego
Diego
6 years ago
Reply to  Guest

Yes,they would have to be dual passport holders,but things could also depend on which passport they entered Qatar under.

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago
Reply to  Guest

Many British Nationals are from non- white ethic backgrounds. They are still British

Mayette
Mayette
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

african american. nuff said.

HoHum
HoHum
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

It’s an important point. Qatari cops judge people based on skin color, and would not detain a white person regardless of his passport.

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago
Reply to  HoHum

That’s totall BS. I know a white guy who was detained for selling weed

Diego
Diego
6 years ago

Selling weed is definately illegal,so no matter what the ethnicity was,one should have to be detained.

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago
Reply to  Diego

ofcourse, point is the statement made by hohum above is wrong as white people get arrested when they break the law like everyone els

Diego
Diego
6 years ago

No problem.What confuses expats is trying to grapple with any system that interfaces government/law and religion.I am not complaining.But I know that if I stick my middle finger up in frustration I know I will get a call from the police within days whereas if someone runs me off the road and denies it, nothing much happens.

HoHum
HoHum
6 years ago

I said detained, not arrested. To be arrested you have to be charged. The person selling weed was certainly charged with an offense. The human rights workers were not.

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago
Reply to  HoHum

then you didnt read the article

“However, last year, two German broadcasters said they were detained by Qatar police during their stay here.

In October, filmmaker Peter Giesel, 45, and 25-year-old cameraman Robin Ahne entered Qatar on tourist visas to produce a package for Sky Sports Germany on the plight of migrant workers.”

there you go detained

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago

Maybe the humanitarians are undercover drug dealers, now we’re getting somewhere

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago
Reply to  Jaded

jokes aside i just used an example to show people do get arrested for breaking the law regardless of race. as for what happened to them i have no idea many possibilities, one would think after the story has gotten this big qatar would say something if the authorities have them. i just hope they are ok,

DavidAdora
DavidAdora
6 years ago

When they have mentioned that the police were after them, it was the police who took them. There should not be a confusion here.
Okay, now that’s that – secretly “abducting” human-rights officers is not a minor incident – especially coming from Qatar – a country that recently helped release an American hostage from Syria. I see hypocrisy somewhere! Are we trying to please the Americans?
They should know by now – things don’t always work the way they want and not everyone can be bought.

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  DavidAdora

Most can be bought though, the evidence is too plentiful to deny.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
6 years ago
Reply to  DavidAdora

Is it just me, or does this article suggest that the UAE is funding a shame Qatar propoganda? Damn “Racists”.

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago

I think this sums up the craziness of all these incidences well:

“An official from the Qatar News Agency, where foreign journalists are required to register when coming to Doha, picked them up from jail and invited them to visit the country again”

AEC
AEC
6 years ago

And then it’s on the Beeb – http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-29058534
And then it’s everywhere.

Mayette
Mayette
6 years ago

I wonder if they too, were under tourists visas and didnt register “correctly” with the authorities

MN
MN
6 years ago

It’s cute how foreign human rights activists think they can freely investigate abuses in the Gulf. it’s also cute how they keep coming back.

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago
Reply to  MN

and what is really more cute and courageous is that reporters keep on coming back because there is something really wrong with the system though they say they are working on it which might be forever and hopefully they can contribute a little in their own little way to make the Gulf a better place

Desert Witch
Desert Witch
6 years ago
Reply to  MN

Rofl

Qatari on Doha News
Qatari on Doha News
6 years ago

Sure let us all assume they have been kidnapped.

This “GNRD” is dubious to say the least. Their list of board members sound like one for a Dubai-based real estate company.

٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶
٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶
6 years ago

Who said anything about kidnapping? Anyway.. so what is your theory?

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago

Yeah these human rights people are quite dodgy, maybe their own people took them out, some internal power struggle probably

Ikanovic
Ikanovic
6 years ago
Reply to  Jaded

How stupid is that? the idea isn’t that their “own people took them out” but the fact that there is a serious political struggle between the UAE, Egypt and Qatar and it seems this organization is funded by these two countries. By your messed up logic how do you explain the fact that this incident hasn’t occurred with journalists from actual news and investigating organizations (except for case mentioned about the two journalists not being registered, which is also to say they were illegally working in the country)? Get educated before going on the internet and making a fool out of yourself.

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
6 years ago
Reply to  Ikanovic

Who said that they were journalists? All I’ve seen is that they were researchers. I agree with you though that they are probably just victims of the Persian Gulf cold war though.

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago
Reply to  Ikanovic

Get a life, I was just taking the piss. This stupid fool couldn’t care less about anything you have to say

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
6 years ago
Reply to  Ikanovic

I interpreted Jaded as speaking tongue-in-cheek, as I believe most other readers would have too.

Huzz
Huzz
6 years ago

Perhaps they have gone on a bender what with all the cheap alcohol. A call to someone in Hereford is needed, just in case.

Parwaiz Win
Parwaiz Win
6 years ago

4 days ago and the British embassy says it is looking into it !! Excuse me !!?? How many British citizens disappear in Qatar everyday ? The embassy has failed in their duty to even provide a concrete answer to where her citizens are

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago
Reply to  Parwaiz Win

Perhaps some of the Asian embassies would have done a better job of the same and atleast would have been aware what happened to their subjects if caught in such situations

Parwaiz Win
Parwaiz Win
6 years ago
Reply to  johnny wang

I really would not know if some of the Asian embassies would have done better but one would expect much more from the British embassy.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

If you have nothing to hide then you don’t need journalists to “register”……

Ikanovic
Ikanovic
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

So by your logic every other country in the world that requires journalists to register (including the US and the UK) has something to hide?

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Ikanovic

Can you please provide the relevant information where journalists either in the uk or us or visiting need to register with the government

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

There were news stories about ten years ago about British journalists being arrested at a NY airport in the US for reporting while on a tourist visa – back in Bush 2 era when the American government was touchy about what they perceived as negative reporting. A quick Google search will find them. Admittedly, that is not the same as registering with the government. There was a hubbub as while it is technically against visa categories in many countries to report on a tourist visa, these restrictions had long been ignored by most governments and not enforced as the ‘journalist’ category was a throwback to the days of slow boats and journalists living in a country for years rather than hopping on a plane for 2 days. The issue was quietly dropped after complaints amid the danger of a tit-for-tat retaliation.

Mr. B
6 years ago

Good luck untying all these knots. Spy vs. spy stuff is hard enough to figure out in places where the government can occasionally be sued, let alone a country like Qatar.

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
6 years ago

Where is your evidence to support the assertion that they didn’t go through official channels? On your other point, I would hazard that many forward to the day when they see more Qataris in handcuffs.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago

It seems they got arrested not cause of what they were investigating but the organization they work for… The org they’re from is a human rights office with shop in Egypt and Dubai… Based in Norway… The simple fact they’re allowed to operate in Dubai and Egypt says a lot

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

So, is the list of proscribed organizations in Qatar publicly available? In which organizations is membership banned in Qatar? It seems to be okay to be members of the Taliban, or some other very distasteful organizations, but not to ask labourers questions on their employment situation. Hassling the Nepali ambassador was a silly mistake too, especially after Qatari government representative assaulted the Russian ambassador a few years back.

It really makes one question who is making these decisions, and whether it has backing from above, or whether it is the result of over-zealous junior staff and a lack of leadership.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago

Not sure what your going on about…
http://unequalmeasures.com/2014/09/04/missing-brits-qatar-really-working/

Take two minutes to read the above to better understand the situation…

I don’t deny the human right abuses in Qatar which need to be corrected … However these teo people work for an organization with an anterior motive and are hijacking the issue to serve their own interests…

osamaalassiry
osamaalassiry
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

interesting…

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Yes, interesting reading indeed,but not really at the point I was trying to make. It was stated above that they were detained, if in fact they have been detained, not because of their actions, but because of the organization that they belong to.

In order for this to be a legitimate grounds for detention the organization needs to have been banned, and publicly announced as such. It is difficult to see how merely working for an organization that has not been added to a blacklist can be seen as an offence.

If their actions were interpreted as criminal, that is one thing. If they were members of a banned organization that is another, but the organization has to have been announced as banned.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago

These two men work for an organization that is funded by the gov’t of AD. AD has been on the offensive employing its political power and money on a shame-Qatar campaign. There is very serious “cold war” ongoing between AD and Doha and both are employing their media to smear the other.

I don’t deny there is a real issue in Doha which needs serious attention and needs to be addressed today, but i doubt the two gentlemen motives…

Murdoch is a close business alley of AD, their relationship started when AD agreed to sink serious advertising dollar for a very long time in all his newspapers and magazines in exchange AD wanted Sky News Arabia to launched in AD with a lot of influence from AD government on the direction of the news reported. It was meant to counter Al Jazeera! AD also tried to do the same by allowing CNN to host several shows in AD and they though they can also “bribe” the BBC with their advertising dollar in exchange for taking “news direction” from AD… their gamble on CNN and BBC failed.. they’re gamble with Murdoch paid off… this why the Sunday Times came out with the series on Qatar bribery… i don’t know if all the stories are true.. i know for a fact some were….. i also believe AD had a huge role to play just like they are hijacking real labor violations issues in Qatar for their own interest..

MrJames
MrJames
6 years ago

I have it on good authority that they are not lost or abducted, simply queuing up at UAE Exchange.

They could be there for a few days longer.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
6 years ago

That same rule applies to Indian Nationals, and yet I know of many people who hold dual passports and get away with it. I am assuming it’s not much different in Nepal as well.

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago

Being arrested is one thing- being arrested without access to legal representation or notifying the appropriate Embassy is another. It makes one very afraid suddenly, that people here seem to think that is an okay scenario. It isn’t. It’s wrong. It’s illegal and it’s inhumane.
I have no idea if the two men or the organisation were funded by a single Government- it seems implausible, after all they were allowed entry. They were ostensibly reporting on abuse of Human Rights, a sensitive subject, one which is naturally denied by those involved. All of the comments relating to this are a distraction from the main point- where are they? British Expats have always felt safe here-until now.

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  outdoorsboys

A valid point that a foreign national is supposed to have the right to consular access before trial but then the US has executed a foreign national (Mexican in this case) who was not given consular access before trial. What standard is Qatar to be held too?

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

Qatar, as should US, apply International Standards, and to be honest, holding up one example of bad practice does not excuse another

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