FIFA scrutinised for allowing Egypt to hold World Cup training in Chechnya
FIFA's approval of Chechnya as Egypt's training base throughout the World Cup this summer has been scrutinised because of charges of human rights violations by the Russian region's strongman leader.
Grozny, the Chechen capital, was selected by Egypt from a list of 67 options presented to the World Cup finalists, and FIFA has said that it will monitor the suitability of allowing a team to be based in the region.
"FIFA's decision to use Grozny for a World Cup team camp is absolutely shocking and outrageous," Human Rights Watch associate director Jane Buchanan told The Associated Press. "FIFA should reverse their decision and move the training camp to another city."
Several governments allege that Chechnya, ruled by Ramzan Kadyrov since 2007, has been complicit in suppressing political opinion and discriminating against women and sexual minorities -- claims that the region's leadership have denied.
No matches at the World Cup in June and July are being staged in the volatile North Caucasus region, and FIFA defended the decision to include Grozny on the list of authorized bases for the 32 finalists.
"We currently have no grounds to believe that the choice of the Egyptian FA to locate its base camp in Grozny will cause particular adverse human rights impacts," FIFA said in a statement to the AP. "That said, FIFA will take appropriate measures in accordance with its human rights policy should this assessment change in the coming months."
The choice brings fresh attention both to Chechnya's efforts to recover from two separatist wars and to criticism last year of its alleged persecution of gay people and other human rights abuses under Kadyrov.
"There should be no doubt that FIFA condemns discrimination of any form, including discrimination based on sexual orientation," FIFA said.
In a letter sent to activists in May, obtained by the AP on Friday, FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura said the anti-LGBT attacks in Chechnya were in "sharp contradiction to the values of FIFA as an organization and we firmly condemn them."
The crackdown in Chechnya was not mentioned in November in the first report from FIFA's new human rights advisory board, which was established in response to condemnation of abuses linked to events staged by the governing body.
"This suddenly makes Chechnya, which was not on the list of Russia's World Cup regions, one of the World Cup sites," Tatyana Lokshina, Russia programme director for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters Television.
A spokesman for Kadyrov told Reuters on Wednesday that the position taken by Human Rights Watch was unfounded.
"These conclusions are not based on anything [and] they are not grounded in the real situation in the Chechen Republic," Alvi Karimov, the spokesman, said.
According to FIFA, Egypt will stay in a new hotel in Grozny and train at Akhmat Arena. The choice of Grozny also means it is a long haul for Egypt's team to its first match, against Uruguay, 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) away in Yekaterinburg.
Egypt, which has qualified for its first World Cup in 28 years, plays Saudi Arabia and Russia in the other games in Group A.