Posts Tagged ‘IOC’

Sports and human rights: focus on ‘sports washing’ – big names play for big money

February 1, 2019

Sports and human rights (or as some like to say ‘sports and politics‘) remains a hotly disputed topic. While the organized sport world (FIFA, IOC) is slowly coming around to take these matters more seriously [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/03/fifas-second-report-on-human-rights-misses-sustainable-approach/  and  https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/03/olympic-committee-tries-its-hands-on-human-rights-cautiously/], it seems that less progress is made with sports events organized by repressive regimes simply to boost their image. Recently called ‘sports washing‘ [The term was coined in relation to a planned tennis exhibition match in Jeddah last December between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, – https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/19/novak-djokovic-and-rafael-nadal-have-a-chance-to-score-a-point-for-human-rights-defenders/. It never went ahead due to an injury of Nadal.]. Azerbaijan in 2015 tried to make good use of sporting events (see e.g.    https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/06/12/baku-games-starting-today-with-avalanche-of-human-rights-criticism/; and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/21/azerbaijan-a-formula-for-combining-sports-and-repression/).

Now the regime of Saudi Arabia hopes that it can buy its way to a better image with hosting sport events and Amnesty International has warned sports stars not to become a propaganda tool. Saudi Arabia said it has hired the former England captain, David Beckham, to lead an exhibition team against his former Real Madrid teammate Zinedine Zidane.  The game, to be held later this year, is part of a £60-billion re-launch of the entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia, called the National Transformation Programme. According to an article in the Sun, it would earn Beckham an estimated £1million. [Beckham also has a lifetime endorsement deal worth £120million with Adidas which I think doesn’t sit well with Adidas’ claimed stance in favor of human rights – see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/13/first-time-major-companies-say-that-human-rights-defenders-are-essential-for-profitable-business/].

Announcing the match in front of big screen images of the football legends, Saudi sports minister Turki Al-Sheikh said: “This is an exhibition match including two big worldwide stars – Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham playing against each other…If God wills, you will see it this year in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The UN children’s aid group UNICEF, for whom Beckham is a goodwill ambassador, has criticised the Saudi-led coalition saying its bombing attacks there have had catastrophic consequences for the local population. Saudi Arabia has detained more than a dozen women’s rights activists such as Loujain al-Hathloul who once appeared in a Vanity Fair.  Loujain’s sister, Alia, has criticised US singer Mariah Carey for playing a concert on Thursday at the King Abdullah Economic City. She said: “My own baby sister said she is being whipped, beaten, electrocuted and harassed on a frequent basis.” She stated: “Remember, thanks to my sister @LoujainHathloul, you r able to perform in Saudi Arabia. I wish she can attend your concert. But she’s locked behind bars because she tried to improve women’s condition. Don’t forget to thank her on stage,” she wrote to Carey on Twitter. [but Mariah Carey is an old hand when it comes to selling her soul: see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/19/mariah-carey-needs-better-informed-staff-and-donate-her-1-million-fee-to-human-rights-defenders-in-angola/].

My post yesterday was about golfershttps://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/31/amnesty-international-calls-on-golfers-not-to-play-the-saudi-propaganda-game/] who were being paid $ 1million when the European Tour staged a tournament in Saudi Arabia. While Paul Casey decided not to take part on human rights grounds, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter did play.

How difficult if not impossible it is to try and separate sports and politics can be illustrated by the recent case of soccer player, Hakeem al-Araibi, a Bahrain-born soccer player for a team in Australia has been held in detention in Thailand [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/02/craig-foster-australian-footballer-and-human-rights-defender/].  Hannah Beech in the NYT on 31 January 2019 puts the question “Can Big Global Sports Come Around to Human Rights Advocacy?

Hakeem al-Araibi, center, a former member of Bahrain’s national soccer team who has refugee status in Australia, at court in Bangkok in December.CreditCreditAthit Perawongmetha/Reuters

The global sports market is worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Now, this powerful industry is coming together to promote an unlikely cause: human rights. Since late November, a Bahrain-born soccer player for a minor team in Australia has been held in detention in Thailand. The player, Hakeem al-Araibi, 24, is not a famous athlete. He has no lucrative sponsors. But he has spoken out against one of the most powerful men in international soccer, who is also a member of the ruling family of Bahrain. His testimony of torture at the hands of Bahrain’s repressive government earned him refugee status in Australia, which determined that he faced credible threats of persecution should he return to the Gulf state. Still, over the past week, Mr. Araibi has collected an impressive list of supporters in the world of international sports.

  • Fatma Samoura, the secretary general of FIFA, has called for Thailand to return him to Australia “as a matter of urgency.”
  • Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee, raised the issue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
  • Praful Patel, of the Asian Football Confederation, issued a statement asking the Prime Minister of Thailand to ensure Mr. Araibi’s return to his adopted home.

[By the way, the head of the Asian Football Confederation is Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, the Bahraini official whom Mr. Araibi accused of not stopping the persecution of athletes in his charge. Sheikh Salman also serves as a FIFA vice president.!]

Mary Harvey, the chief executive of the Center for Sports and Human Rights, said:  “Hakeem is a historic test case, because it’s the first time that we’ve seen these big, powerful sports bodies all come together publicly to address the fate of a single person”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/12/mary-harvey-her-goal-is-now-human-rights/]. The court ordered al-Araibi, who is in the Bangkok Remand Prison, to appear before it at 8.30am on Monday to answer whether or not he is willing to be extradited,  lawyer Bergman said.

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Olympic Committee tries its hands on human rights, ..cautiously

December 3, 2018

The IOC has set up an advisory committee on human rights chaired by Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the former U.N. high commissioner for human rights. One can only hope that he will fare better than his UN predecessor’s short tenure in FIFA’s Governance Committee and that the IOC’s human right panel will do a better job than its FIFA counterpart [see my post of today: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/03/fifas-second-report-on-human-rights-misses-sustainable-approach/]. The IOC advisory committee was in the pipeline since March 2017 [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/14/olympic-games-in-future-bound-by-human-rights-standards/].

IOC President Thomas Bach said Saturday 2 December 2018 at meetings in Tokyo that “human rights standards” will be included in Olympic host-city contracts, beginning with the 2024 Games in Paris. “Promoting humanistic values in sport has been a core feature of the IOC since its beginning” and “Our mission, to put sport at the service of humanity, goes hand in hand with human rights, which is part of our DNA” But his answers re the Bejing Winter Olympics in 2022 fell short of this lofty language: Bach was asked if the committee would look at human rights in China, where hundreds of thousands of Muslims in western China are being held in interment camps. He said the IOC would not question China because it “has not the mandate nor the authority to solve the human rights problems” that are clearly “political issues. Bach suggested the committee would focus on issues like the rights of transgender athletes. “We should concentrate on what we can really achieve and what we can really do” .

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/27/new-global-center-for-sport-and-human-rights-created-to-address-abuses/

New Global Center for Sport and Human Rights created to address abuses

June 27, 2018

Olympic Games in future bound by human rights standards

March 14, 2017

On 2 February this year I wrote about human rights coming to football [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/02/fifa-governance-committee-starts-dealing-with-a-human-rights-policy/]. Now there is some progress to note on the Olympics: The Sports and Rights Alliance (SRA) reports that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has moved to incorporate human rights principles in its Host City Contract. This could help prevent major abuses by future Olympic hosts. The revised Host City Contract, developed with recommendations from a coalition of leading rights, athletes’ and transparency organizations, was finalized in January 2017, and will first apply to the 2024 Summer Olympics. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/26/coalition-of-human-rights-defenders-and-others-call-on-olympic-committee-to-change-its-ways/]

For the first time, the IOC has included explicit reference to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), which outline the human rights responsibilities of businesses, as well as references to anti-corruption standards. The Guiding Principles explain how commercial enterprises should assess human rights risks, take effective steps to avoid human rights problems, and ensure a remedy for abuses that occur in spite of those efforts.

2014_IOC_Bach
IOC President Thomas Bach in Lausanne 9 July, 2014. © 2014 Reuters

“This is an important step by the IOC for the future,” said Sharan Burrow, International Trade Union Confederation general secretary. “Implementing the UN Guiding Principles across all major global sporting events could help break the cycle of human rights abuses, and this example from the IOC should be applied to all such events, starting now.”

The SRA’s mission is to ensure that sports bodies and mega-sporting events respect human rights, the environment, and anti-corruption requirements at all stages of the process. “Time after time, Olympic hosts have gotten away with abusing workers building stadiums, and with crushing critics and media who try to report about abuses,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch. “The right to host the Olympics needs to come with the responsibility not to abuse basic human rights.

The revised contract requires host cities to “protect and respect human rights and ensure any violation of human rights is remedied in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and in a manner consistent with all internationally-recognized human rights standards and principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, applicable in the Host Country.

If implemented, the revised Host City Contract will help ensure that Olympic hosts respect ‘human dignity’ as required by the Olympic Charter,” said Brendan Schwab, head of UNI World Athletes. “This should have a ripple effect across all mega-sporting events such as the World Cup, and wherever abuses tied to sport still occur.”

[Key provisions of the revised Olympic Host City Contract include:

13. Respect of the Olympic Charter and promotion of Olympism

13.1. The Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG undertake to abide by the provisions of the Olympic Charter and the IOC Code of Ethics and agree to conduct their activities related to the organisation of the Games in a manner which promotes and enhances the fundamental principles and values of Olympism, as well as the development of the Olympic Movement.

13.2. Pursuant to their obligations under §13.1, the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG shall, in their activities related to the organisation of the Games:

a. prohibit any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status;

b. protect and respect human rights and ensure any violation of human rights is remedied in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and in a manner consistent with all internationally-recognised human rights standards and principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, applicable in the Host Country; and

c. refrain from any act involving fraud or corruption, in a manner consistent with any international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and all internationally-recognised anti-corruption standards applicable in the Host Country, including by establishing and maintaining effective reporting and compliance.

13.3. The IOC, through its Coordination Commission referred to in §27, shall establish a reporting mechanism to address the obligations referred to in §13.1 and §13.2 in connection with the activities of the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG related to the organisation of the Games.

15. Sustainability and Olympic legacy

15.1. The Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG undertake to carry out all activities foreseen under the HCC in a manner which embraces sustainable development and contributes to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.]

Source: Olympics: Host City Contract Requires Human Rights | Human Rights Watch

IOC repeats mistake: Winter Olympics 2022 to China

August 11, 2015

After the IOC awarded the winter olympics 2022 to China, Minky Worden, Human Rights Watch’s Director of Global Initiatives, had this to say on 31 July 2015:

http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/07/31/ch…

see earlier: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/coalition-of-human-rights-defenders-and-others-call-on-olympic-committee-to-change-its-ways/

Tibetan protesters in Switzerland object to Beijing’s bid to 2022 Winter Olympics

June 13, 2015

In case the focus on the Baku Games is seen as too partial, here a reference to a protest against China‘s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics 

Tibetan Protesters in Switzerland Disrupt Beijing’s Bid to 2022 Winter Olympics

The Tibetan Youth Association of Europe (TYAE) organized a demonstration outside the IOC hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland on 10 June, 2015. Some of the protesters outside the hotel acted a scene of Chinese human rights violations inside Tibet, while a few others managed to get inside the hotel and chant slogans such as “Free Tibet” and “No More Bloody Games”,  just as the Chinese officials were making their case for Olympic bid in front of the International Olympic Committee members.

Golok Jigme, a former Tibetan political prisoner who participated in the protest said in a statement to IOC President Bach, “I stand here today as a witness of Chinese repression in Tibet. But this is not only about me. Many Tibetan human rights defenders and protestors were jailed and killed in 2008. If the Olympic Games 2022 should be awarded to China again you will be co-responsible for such atrocities. If you cannot support us, don’t treat us like toys for the sake of flattering the Chinese Communist Party. We the Tibetan people are also citizens of this world and our dignity and rights must be respected.

On Thursday, China’s foreign ministry condemned Wednesday’s protest in Switzerland calling it, provocative:”Their behavior will not shake the resolve of the Chinese government and people to apply to hold the Winter Olympics in Beijing“.

 

via Tibetan Protesters in Switzerland Disrupt Beijing’s Bid to 2022 Winter Olympic.

Azerbaijan continues to ‘play the game’

April 28, 2015

Azerbaijan plays the game: Under pressure from a variety of sources to reduce its widespread repression of human rights defenders in the run up to the European Games [see my latest post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/azerbaijan-a-formula-for-combining-sports-and-repression/], the authorities seems to have decided to give in a tiny bit (see two examples below) and continue for the rest with heavy-handed sentencing of human rights defenders:

– On 18 March 2015, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev pardoned 101 prisoners, including Bashir Suleymanli, co-founder of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDSC). Whilst welcoming Suleymanli’s release, on 19 March, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) remains deeply concerned by the ongoing arbitrary detention of other prominent human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, including Anar Mammadli, chairman of the EMDSC, arrested on the same day, who remains currently detained. The EMDSC – which Azeri authorities have always refused to register – has been leading electoral monitoring activities in Azerbaijan since 2008.

–  On 24 April 2015, the head of the United Nation’s Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), Aisha Shujune Muhammad, announced that her four-member delegation had successfully conducted investigations of Azerbaijani prisons, police stations and investigative isolation units. “The Azerbaijani Government this time enabled unhindered access to places of deprivation of liberty,” said a statement published by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. While welcoming the government’s cooperation, Muhammad added, “[The] State party has yet to guarantee all fundamental legal and procedural safeguards to persons deprived of their liberty, including access to a lawyer, a medical doctor, and to contact his or her family.” [As a state party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, Azerbaijan is obliged to allow independent experts full access to sites of detention, but last September the SPT was forced to suspend its visit after being prevented from inspecting some sites and barred from completing its work at others, “in violation of Azerbaijan’s treaty obligations”]

But then – if you think it finally goes in the right direction – on the 22 April a Court in Baku sentenced human rights defender Mr Intigam Aliyev to seven and a half years imprisonment on trumped-up charges. For more on Intigam Aliyev see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/intigam-aliyev/]. Many NGOs and governments condemned the sentencing including the EU (“The sentence of seven and a half years imprisonment and a further three-year ban on holding public office handed down to prominent human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev by an Azerbaijani Court is a further demonstration of the increasingly difficult  situation faced by human rights defenders in Azerbaijan. This harsh sentence is disproportionate to the alleged offences, while serious shortcomings witnessed by international monitors during the trial raise fundamental questions as to the legality of these procedures.“)

Several important NGOs, including Amnesty International,Human Rights Watch, the Observatory on Human Rights Defenders (FIDH/OMCT) and Front Line Defenders, have pointed out that serious rights allegations have been escalating since 2012 as Azerbaijan is gearing up to host the first-ever European Games under the auspices of the Olympic Movement. [Over 6,000 athletes representing 50 countries from 12-28 June 2015; according to the London-based Business News Europe, the games are budgeted at an estimated eight billion dollars, and billed as the “most spectacular show in Azerbaijan’s history.”]

While the government of President Ilham Aliyev hopes to use the games to spotlight his country’s economic development, rights groups are pushing the European Olympic Committees and key National Olympic Committees to instead shift the focus onto human rights abuses and political prisoners. The Sports and Rights Alliance, urged the IOC to use its leverage with Azerbaijan to, among other things, demand the immediate and unconditional release of rights activists like Khajida Ismayilova, Leyla Yunus, Arif Yunus, Intigam Aliyev, Rasul Jafarov, Rauf Mirgadirov, Anar Mammadli, Ilgar Mammadov, and Tofig Yagulblu.

Those participating in the European games being funded by the Azerbaijani government have a real obligation to speak out,” Buchanan of Human Rights Watch stressed.

Azerbaijan activist released after almost 10 months’ arbitrary detention – ALIRAN.

http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/04/u-n-committee-gets-unhindered-access-to-azerbaijans-detention-centres-but-is-it-enough/

https://iwpr.net/global-voices/azerbaijan-convictions-dont-convince

http://www.channel4.com/news/baku-european-games-azerbaijan-aliyev-human-rights-team-gb

Coalition of human rights defenders and others call on Olympic Committee to change its ways

February 26, 2015

The IOC Executive Committee is meeting in Rio de Janeiro these days (26-28 February) to discuss implementation of Agenda 2020, its “strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement”. The IOC’s adopted agenda requires Olympic host countries to respect anti-discrimination measures and labor standards, improve transparency, and promote good governance.

The new Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA see below for membership) addressed a letter to the IOC saying that too often major sports events have seen people forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for infrastructure, workers exploited, campaigners locked up, the environment damaged beyond repair and notoriously opaque bidding processes,” … “The recommendations in the IOC’s Agenda 2020 are a chance to change that and ensure human rights, the environment and anti-corruption measures are central to all stages of the Olympic Games, from bidding, through to the development and delivery phase to final reporting.Read the rest of this entry »