Most Read Contributor in Switzerland, February 2017
These days, the Dutch trade union federation Nederlandse
Vakbeweging has filed a lawsuit against FIFA before the Commercial
Court in Zürich. The court action names guest workers in Qatar
who are employed in the infrastructure work for the World Cup 2022
in Qatar. The union accuses FIFA of doing too little to improve the
local working conditions. Human rights organizations complain about
"modern slavery". According to Amnesty International, the
immigrants must pass the passport after their immigration to Qatar
and live in barracks under miserable hygienic conditions. Many of
the 1,5 million workers actually perform forced labor, according to
Amnesty International. Lead "plaintiff" is the
32-year-old Nadim Shariful Alam from Bangladesh, who worked in
Qatar until January 2016, when had to leave Qatar abruptly because
his employer did not want to continue his job.
"Trade unions say that monetary compensation is not their
primary concern but rather FIFA exerting more pressure on the Qatar
The Fifa awarded the World Cup 2022 in 2010 to Qatar.
Afterwards, the emirate launched a gigantic construction program
and was since then critized for the miserable work conditions on
the stadium and other facilities. Central is the so-called Kafala
system whereby guest workers are tied to a sponsor, the Kafeel, who
exercises overall control on its sponsored construction workers.
Without consent, a worker may neither change places nor remain in
the country. The Dutch trade union, along with two trade unions
from Bangladesh, are represented by the Dutch human rights lawyer
Mrs. Liesbeth Zegveld and Mr. David Husmann, a lawyer from
Zürich. "FIFA knew from the outset of the working
conditions in Qatar and nevertheless granted Qatar the World Cup in
2022. " says Mrs. Zegveld. "A Swiss association
proclaiming compliance with human rights has a particular
responsiblity", Mr. Husman is quoted.
The three trade unions claim on Mr. Shariful Alam's behalf
USD 4'000 as damage compensation and CHF 30'000 in moral
damages. The trade unions say that monetary compensation is not
their primary concern but rather FIFA exerting more pressure on the
Qatar Government. In other words, the trade unions want to ensure
that Qatar abandons its Kafala system, that guest workers can
terminate their employment contracts and that they can keep their
"Uncharted legal territories: it is the first time that a
Swiss business is prosecuted for human rights violations before its
own local courts."
FIFA rejected the allegations in a letter to the trade unions by
saying that it works closely with the World Cup organizers in
Qatar. FIFA also claims that Qatar had introduced for the first
time minimal work standards for guest workers and that an
independent agency would monitor compliance with those standards.
FIFA also claims that it cannot be held responsible for all
problems in Qatar.
The trade unions admit improvements which are however are not
enough: "It really looks better today at the stadium
construction sites, but the situation is still terrible elswhere
where journalists have no access" says Mrs. Zegveld.
The lawsuit in Zurich means uncharted legal territories: it is
the first time that a business registered in Switzerland is
prosecuted for human rights violations abroad before its own local
courts. A St. Gallen attorney, Mr. Gregor Geisser, who has written
a doctoral thesis on the topic, speaks about a "pioneer
case". Mr. Geisser thinks that the Zürich judges cannot
easily dismiss the case, though he sees high hurdles as the central
question is to what extent FIFA can be blamed for the conduct of
the Qatar employers, as FIFA is not the employing construction
company building the sports and other facilities in Qatar. On the
other hand, there is a variety of contracts between FIFA and Quatar
on the Soccer World Cup 2022 which gives FIFA a considerable
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