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10th Jun 2022

Protestors at Qatar World Cup could face five-year prison sentence

Callum Boyle

Protestors could be arrested under Qatar’s penal code

Protestors at the upcoming Qatar World Cup could face a prison sentence of five years for “stirring up public opinion” under the Arab state’s penal code.

As revealed by The Athletic, the law has led to concerns over whether fans will be allowed a freedom of expression throughout the tournament.

Protestors have had their freedom of expression in Qatar blocked since January 2010 following a law change, which was announced by the Emir of Qatar.

Qatar World Cup

Those found guilty could face five years in prison

Article 136 of the law states that those affected include: “Anyone who broadcasts, publishes, or republishes false or biased rumours, statements, or news, or inflammatory propaganda, domestically or abroad, with the intent to harm national interests, stir up public opinion, or infringe on the social system or the public system of the state.”

Anyone found guilty of breaking those laws could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of 100,000 Qatari riyals (around £22,000).

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemn law imposed

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the law. “The Penal Code was changed to introduce more vague terms, which could be interpreted as an attack on freedom of expression,” May Romanos, Gulf Researcher at Amnesty said.

“It is anything that is perceived to harm the national interest, change public opinion, or infringe on the social system. Anything could fall under this. It’s a catch-all which deters freedom of expression.

“It could be used to silence peaceful critiques, or people expressing their right to freedom of expression, even online. This is in addition to the regular laws that they have, including the cyber crime law, which is already repressive.”

“We continue to call on Qatar to respect people’s freedom of expression,” Amnesty added.

“That’s a key pillar of international obligations that Qatar committed to, they signed international treaties, they said they will abide by international human rights law, which includes the right to freedom of expression.

“We will continue to call on Qatar to actually uphold these rights and obligations.”

Qatar World Cup

FIFA admit they cannot guarantee safety of protestors at World Cup

A FIFA spokesperson revealed that they support the rights to peacefully protest and in response have set up a Human Rights Grievance Mechanism should anyone be in breach, but when asked if they could guarantee the safety of those protesting, they couldn’t.

They said: “FIFA defends the principles of freedom of expression and is committed to ensuring that anyone attending FIFA events has their rights upheld.”

“With respect to the legislative protections in place during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, specific legislation has been passed with the aim to ensure a safe tournament environment for everyone, in line with FIFA’s requirements applicable to all hosts of its competitions.

“This includes ensuring that fans and everyone else involved in the tournament will be safe from undue restrictions to their personal freedoms and a wide-ranging programme has been implemented over the past years to train security personnel in the application of these standards.”

The World Cup begins on on Monday November 21, with the final taking place on Sunday December 18.

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