A Kenyan migrant worker in Qatar has reportedly been arrested and detained in the Gulf nation.
Malcolm Bidali was detained after giving a presentation to a gathering of trade unions and civil rights groups on May 4.
Bidali, who works as a security guard and is also a blogger and activist, has been working with various organizations on the rights of migrant workers in Qatar in the past three years, and on the day he disappeared he’d given his experience working as a security guard in the Middle East country.
He’s now accused of writing under a pseudonym and was picked from his accommodation on the night of May 4 for questioning by the state security service. His whereabouts are yet to be known.
“Malcolm is a security guard, blogger, and activist, who has been vocal about the plight of migrant workers like himself and has written for a number of online platforms,” a joint statement from MigrantRights.org, FairSquare, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre said.
“Malcolm has been on the frontline of the fight to reform Qatar’s labour laws,” the joint statement added.
On 11 May, a joint letter was sent to Qatari authorities urging them to investigate his disappearance as a matter of urgency.
Later on May 12, the government confirmed that Bidali has been detained and is under investigation for violating Qatar’s security laws and regulations. However, the authorities have not yet disclosed his whereabouts.
“We urge the authorities to disclose Malcolm’s whereabouts and ensure he is protected from torture and other ill-treatment. Further, they must outline internationally recognized offense against him and ensure his right to due process is fully respected, including ensuring he has legal assistance,” the statement adds.
“If Malcolm is detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, he must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Qatar’s human rights record has been in the spotlight as it prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, especially over migrants’ living and working conditions. Doha has introduced labour reforms that aimed to address some concerns.
According to Reuters, a Qatari government official through the government’s communications office (GCO) said a Kenyan national was taken into custody on May 5 and placed under investigation for violating Qatar’s security laws and regulations.
“The individual retains all his rights under the law. All procedures of the investigation are being carried out in accordance with Qatari law,” said the official, who declined to be named.
“We are extremely concerned for his well-being, and that he may have been detained in reprisal for his legitimate human rights work. If Malcolm is detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, he must be released immediately and unconditionally,” the joint statement said.