Britishers of Nepali origin ‘held incommunicado in Qatar’

Two British human rights workers of Nepali origin, who were investigating into migrant labourers’ situation in Qatar, have gone missing since Sunday.

Human rights researcher Krishna Upadhyaya (52) and photographer Gundev Ghimire (36) disappeared on Sunday afternoon while they were investigating into labourers’ situation deployed for constructing facilities for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup, the victims’ kin told THT Online.

Upadhyaya’s nephew Shreya Paudel, currently residing in London, confirmed the disappearance.

“My maternal uncle Krishna Upadhyay had gone to Qatar to report on the grave living conditions of Nepali migrant workers there,” Shreya told THT Online.

According to Shreya, the duo was in Norway before leaving for Qatar for the assignment on August 27.

They were employed by a Norwegian organisation, Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD). Both were carrying British passports and were working in cooperation with Nepali diplomats in the Gulf.

Stating that the duo might have been held incommunicado by Qatar police, GNRD said in a statement, “We are deeply concerned that our employees, both British citizens, may have been subjected to enforced disappearance and are currently at risk of torture.”

“GNRD holds Qatari authorities responsible for the security and safety of its kidnapped employees and it will pursue through the international setups and the International Law, all those who are responsible for this offense,” it added. 

Shreya added that he and his relatives “have done everything we could to find the missing person’s whereabouts”. Shreya echoed GNRD claiming that his uncles might have been held under police custody.

“Qatari government thinks that it has silenced the voices of the migrant workers,” Shreya said. 

Gundev Ghimire (left) and Krishna Upadhyay. Courtesy: GNRD

According to GNRD, Upadhyaya and Ghimire had sent text messages to colleagues and informed that they were being followed by police officers in plain clothes.

“I am being followed by the police here. Looks like they will give me troubles now,” a British newspaper The Independent quotes one of the texts received by the victim’s relatives.

Kin in Kathmandu begin rescue bid

Ramesh Paudel, Upadhyay’s brother-in-law and Ghimire’s close friend based in Kathmandu, said the relatives here have begun consultations to rescue them from the trap.

“We held a meeting with the officials of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) this morning,” Ramesh said THT Online over phone. “NHRC has pledged to do the needful to find the whereabouts of our missing relatives.”

He added that the NHRC has assured to write to Qatari human rights authorities via the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

NHRC writes to ICRC

Meanwhile, NHRC Director Suvarna Karmacharya said the Commission immediately wrote to the ICRC requesting to do the needful for rescue of the captives. 

“Since they have already given up the Nepali citizenship, we cannot directly intervene into the issue,” he told THT Online. 

Ramesh, who is also a human rights activist, said the kin are also mulling on consulting other human rights activists and organisations in Kathmandu to decide further steps.

Parents not informed

Another relative of Upadyaya, currently residing in Jhapa, however, said the Nepali state mechanisms may choose to stay neutral as both of the persons have already given up Nepali citizenship.

According to him, Upadhyay’s parents are in Kathmandu and are unaware about the incident yet.

“We are trying our best not to let his parents know about the disappearance unless we find their whereabouts,” he said, requesting anonymity.

The Independent wrote on Wednesday that the Qatari Embassy in London did not respond to a request to comment on the disappearance of the two Britons.

According to the paper, a Foreign Office spokesman, however, said, “We are aware of reports of two British nationals being missing in Qatar. We are looking into them.”

International media claim that more than 400 Nepalis died in the Gulf state between January 2012 and this May – a death rate of one worker per day. Qatar, however, has been insisting that none of the deaths occurred on World Cup sites.

Qatar has been criticised for routinely holding detainees incommunicado for weeks or months at a time.

Source: THT