World Cup 2022: Qatar failed to investigate work deaths, HRW report finds

Qatar has systematically failed to investigate workplace deaths or provide compensation to the families of workers who have died in the Gulf state, a leading labour rights group has said ahead of the 2022 World Cup in the country.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report on Sunday that only two of the deaths investigated by Qatar’s ministry of labour and social affairs were able to be fully and impartially investigated. One was deemed to be so suspicious it was not investigated while the second killed in an apparent explosion was determined to be natural death but the family was not given any compensation.

While labour rights in Qatar and elsewhere in the region are increasingly under the spotlight, the report shows how closely the games will be watched and discussed back home. The International Olympic Committee also opened a debate this year on the potential conflicts of interest involved in Qatar’s hosting of the 2020 Games.

The debate will heat up again on Monday when HRW will publish the findings of its latest investigation. Qatar, which denies all accusations of abuses of workers’ rights, will face criticism about its ability to maintain workers’ safety, living conditions and wage payments. The World Cup has been billed as an economic and sporting event and is expected to be watched by millions around the world.

The Gulf state, which was awarded the World Cup in 2010, pledged to use the tournament to overhaul a system of lagging worker protection, delays in improving worker rights and a lack of transparency around their deaths.

But the HRW report accuses Qatar of diverting its focus to other areas such as building venues and completing its large list of infrastructure projects.

The country’s own investigation into its work practices has already been critiqued. Last July a landmark court ruling in the US state of New York that workers were owed $44m for abuse including the “humiliating” confiscation of property.

Qatar has since announced it would increase the compensation for its workers and improved its investigation processes. HRW warns the reforms do not go far enough. “Neither the decision nor the declaration fully address workers’ long-term rights, because many of the protections have only recently been afforded to workers,” said the HRW report.

Zahi Hawass, the Fifa chief and Qatari delegate, said he was “confident that work will be transparent in the 2017-2022 period.”

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