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Human rights experts urge FIFA to scrutinize Saudi Arabia before 2034 World Cup vote

Human rights experts urge FIFA to scrutinize Saudi Arabia before 2034 World Cup vote

FIFA PresidentDUBLIN: FIFA was urged by international lawyers Wednesday to uphold its own policy and scrutinize Saudi Arabia’s human rights record before picking the kingdom to host the men’s 2034 World Cup.

A 22-page document was delivered to FIFA headquarters in Zurich on behalf of Mark Pieth and Stefan Wehrenberg of Switzerland and British barrister Rodney Dixon. They offered to work with FIFA on an action plan and monitoring of Saudi Arabia by independent experts.

Their paper calls on FIFA to use its leverage now with Saudi Arabia to comply with international human rights standards that the world soccer body’s own policy since 2017 has required of tournament hosts.

“It is obvious that Saudi Arabia falls very far short of those requirements,” the document states. “Given this, as matters currently stand, FIFA simply cannot properly permit it to host the 2034 World Cup.”

They cite Saudi Arabia’s record on freedom of expression and assembly, treatment of prisoners and migrant workers, and male guardianship laws that limit personal freedoms for women.

Saudi Arabia has consistently said it is changing fast as part of the Vision 2030 program to modernize the kingdom’s economy and society driven by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Hosting more sports and entertainment events is key to the program to be less dependent on oil riches.

Saudi Arabia is the only candidate to host the 2034 World Cup in a fast-track process FIFA opened last October in a surprise move.

By brokering a three-continent, six nation co-hosting deal for the 2030 tournament, FIFA effectively cleared a path for Saudi Arabia to get the following edition without a rival bid.

The Saudi bid must be formally submitted by July and is set to be confirmed on Dec. 11 in an online vote by FIFA’s 211 member federations.

The lawyers want FIFA to use the leverage it has now with the bid to comply with the soccer body’s own policy drafted seven years by Harvard University professor John Ruggie. He previously shaped the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights.

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