Liberal Democrats call on Welsh Government to close Qatar office over human rights concerns
The leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats has called on the Welsh Government to close their office in Qatar over human rights concerns.
The call comes after an investigation in the Times revealed that a Briton later found hanged told friends that he had been detained and tortured by the country’s secret police.
The call comes as the Welsh Government is getting ready for a huge public relations push in Qatar in the wake of Wales’ qualification for the World Cup in November.
£1.8 million will be shared among 19 projects Economy Minister Vaughan Gething says will help “project our nation’s values and work to secure a positive and lasting legacy for Wales and Welsh football”.
But the Welsh Liberal Democrats argued that the revelations in the Times about the treatment of Marc Bennett prove their previous claims that Qatar is an authoritarian police state that should not be prioritized by the Welsh Government for friendly relations.
The Welsh Government currently operates a trade office in Qatar alongside one in the UAE, both of which the Welsh Liberal Democrats want shut and their resources moved to democratic nations with good human rights records.
Commenting Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said: “The Welsh Government should not be prioritising a friendly relationship with an authoritarian state that has been involved in the torture of a British national.
“This is on top of a range of human rights issues we have already highlighted, including homophobia, systemic discrimination against women and modern slavery.
“We are strongly in favour of Wales having a strong international footprint to promote our outstanding businesses and exports across the globe, but we also want to make sure Wales has an ethical trade policy that does not just consider raw profit, but also human rights and democracy.
“I am not comfortable that the limited resources of Trade and Invest Wales are being used to promote trade in these two authoritarian nations where being part of the LGBT+ community can still be punished by execution and women’s rights a treated such little regard.
“I want Wales to be a confident and outward-looking nation, but I also want to see Wales stand up strongly for human rights, democracy and liberty.
“I would urge First Minister Mark Drakeford, as Portfolio Holder for International Relations and Trade, to urgently consider closing these offices.
“The resources could be moved to democratic nations with strong human rights records, we are still yet to see any international presence by Wales in Africa, Latin America or Oceania for example.”
The Football Association of Wales have already called for an improvement to Qatar’s human rights, after concerns by Amnesty International that the World Cup had only been made possible through the exploitation of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.
The announcement from the FAW stated: “The FAW want to see further significant and lasting improvements in the conditions of migrant workers in Qatar with ongoing support provided through the concept of a Migrant Workers Centre.
“Alongside fellow European National Associations, the FAW has committed to due diligence with all major local suppliers and in collaboration with the Hospitality Working Group, International Labor Organisation and the Qatar Supreme Committee is conducting a range of checks to ensure that any partners or services used in Qatar, both before and during the tournament, meet the required standards regarding human rights and provide full support to their employees.”
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