Posts Tagged ‘sports and politics’

Human Rights Defenders pay high price for Bahrain Grand Prix

March 28, 2019

The Bahraini authorities appear to be using the glamour of motor sport to obscure the country’s human rights record

Bahrain: Grand Prix should not ‘sportswash’ country’s human rights record” says Amnesty International.

[see my earlier post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/01/sports-and-human-rights-focus-on-sports-washing-big-names-play-for-big-money/]

Ahead of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix this weekend, Amnesty International has highlighted the grim human rights record of the country. Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns, said: “Beneath the glamour of the F1, there is a far more sinister side to Bahrain, revealing the country as a deeply repressive state where anyone critical of the government can be jailed merely for posting a tweet. “Prominent human rights defenders are under relentless attack in the country. 

Nabeel Rajab was shamefully convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for tweeting about the conflict in Yemen and torture allegations in Jaw Prison. “Instead of just ‘sportswashing’ its image and glossing over its dismal human rights record through high-speed sport, the Bahraini government should immediately repeal laws that criminalise freedom of expression and fast track the release of all prisoners of conscience.

Since mid-2016, the Bahraini authorities have embarked on a systematic campaign to eliminate organised political opposition in the country. The main targets of this far-reaching repression have been human rights defenders, journalists, political activists, Shi’a clerics and phttps://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/bahrain-verdict-against-sheikh-salman-another-nail-coffin-free-speecheaceful protesters…Earlier this month, Ebrahim Sharif was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for three years, for a tweet criticising Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. …. Bahrain has used draconian legislation such as Law No. 58 of 2006 on the Protection of Society from Terrorist Acts, the Law on Political Associations, and repressive provisions of the Penal Code including Articles 134, 160, 165, 168, 214, 215, 216 and 310, to target protesters and other critics of the government. Since 2011, more than 800 people have been stripped of their nationalities. Of those, 115 lost their citizenship following a ludicrous mass trial that relied on confessions extracted under torture.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/02/happy-new-year-but-not-for-ahmed-mansoor-and-nabeel-rajab-in-the-gulf-monarchies/

For more information on the human rights situation, see the following blog – Bahrain: What lies behind the scenes of the Formula One Grand Prix.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/bahrain-grand-prix-should-not-sportswash-countrys-human-rights-record

 

Bahrain feels forced to drop extradition request against footballer Hakeem al-Araibi who is on the plane back home

February 11, 2019

That international’s pressure can have a good result – sometimes – is shown in today’s court order in Thailand to release Bahraini refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi.  Bahrain dropped the extradition request, said the prosecutor working on the case.

Thailand to free Bahraini refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi
Araibi fled Bahrain in 2014 and subsequently received refugee status in Australia [Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP]

Monday’s decision comes after the 25-year-old footballer Hakeem al-Araibi was jailed for weeks in Bangkok’s Klong Prem Remand Prison. Bahrain wanted him returned to serve a 10-year prison sentence he received in absentia in 2014 for an arson attack that damaged a police station. Al-Araibi denied those charges. See also Craig Foster, Australian footballer and …human rights defender!

Al-Araibi, who fled Bahrain in 2014 and received refugee status in Australia, was arrested in November at a Bangkok airport while on his honeymoon following an Interpol notice issued at Bahrain’s request.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morisson, meanwhile, praised the decision and said al-Araibi was on his way to the airport, where he should arrive in 12 hours from now.

“This is a huge victory for the human rights movement in Bahrain, Thailand and Australia, and even the whole world,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. “Let’s continue the fight to release all political prisoners who languish in Bahrain’s prisons.

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/thailand-free-refugee-bahraini-footballer-hakeem-al-araibi-190211083252299.html

 

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.

—–

Amnesty International calls on golfers not to play the Saudi propaganda game

January 31, 2019

Rose during the pro-am at Royal GreensRose during the pro-am at Royal Greens
Golf’s world number one Justin Rose should use his profile to highlight human rights issues and counter the “propaganda value” of this week’s Saudi International, according to Amnesty International.

The tournament has attracted a star-studded field despite the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/jamal-khashoggi/]

Rose has defended his participation by the lame response: “I’m not a politician, I’m a pro golfer“. Human rights violating countries are well aware of the ‘sports-washing’ value of international sporting events, and the players need to understand this too. [ just see some the posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-and-politics/]

AI UK’s director Kate Allen said. “We haven’t called on golfers to pull out of the Royal Greens event and it’s not for us to say who should be playing in these tournaments or whether countries like Saudi Arabia should be hosting them“.

The point with this, like other sporting events in countries with atrocious human rights records, is to fully understand the context…By hosting the European Tour, Saudi Arabia is almost certainly hoping to use the glamour of elite golf and the lush panorama of the Royal Greens course to subtly rebrand the country.” 

AI makes the concrete suggestion:”If each member of the European Tour tweeted their support for Loujain al-Hathloul and the other jailed women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, they could go a long way to countering their propaganda value to the Saudi government.”

Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by the Saudi regime

 

See also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/19/novak-djokovic-and-rafael-nadal-have-a-chance-to-score-a-point-for-human-rights-defenders/

 

https://www.rte.ie/sport/golf/2019/0130/1026532-amnesty-calls-golfers/

Craig Foster, Australian footballer and …human rights defender!

January 2, 2019

Football’s power to fight injustice motivates Craig Foster. The former Socceroos captain who played for Hong Kong’s Ernest Borel in the early ’90s is a broadcaster in Australia and also works for Amnesty International as a human rights and refugee ambassador. He is among the most vocal of activists in calling out human rights transgressions in football and sport and is one of the many prominent figures fighting for the release of Bahrain’s Hakeem al-Araibi, an Australia-based refugee footballer who is in a Thai jail awaiting extradition to his home country where he fears torture and persecution. [For some of my other posts on football and human rights, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/football/]

On  Tuesday, 01 January, 2019, Nazvi Careem Nazvi Careem wrote a long piece about Craig Foster’s work and dedication:

And if he ever doubted just how powerful this sport can be, he only needs to recall the heartbreaking words of a young African refugee who had lost everything – fleeing his war-torn homeland after his parents, sibling and other members of his family were killed. “He was involved in a football programme over a period of time. He was very, very quiet and said very little,” said Foster. “He was in a new country and was experiencing psychological difficulties, which is totally understandable. “When he was asked why he liked the programme, he simply said: ‘The only thing that still exists in my life is football. It is the only thing that hasn’t been taken away from me’. And he was crying when he said it.

He [Craig Foster] is among the most vocal of activists in calling out human rights transgressions in football and sport and is one of the many prominent figures fighting for the release of Bahrain’s Hakeem al-Araibi, an Australia-based refugee footballer who is in a Thai jail awaiting extradition to his home country where he fears torture and persecution. (AFC must be held to account if Bahraini refugee player is extradited from Thailand, says ex-Socceroos captain Craig Foster)

…Since retiring as a player in 2002, Foster became involved in social issues related to football, working with disadvantaged, minority and indigenous communities in a variety of programmes. “I’m just finishing my law degree, which has given me some further insight into the challenges of human rights and international refugee law. I feel strongly about these issues and in football, we are at an advantage because we are the most diverse, multicultural community in Australia.

…..Foster, who played for Portsmouth and Crystal Palace in England and also had a stint in Singapore, said he felt an obligation to give something back to the sport. As an ex-player and a broadcaster with the SBS organisation in Australia, Foster is in an ideal position to reach out to the masses. At the same time, he puts his contribution to social issues in perspective, admitting that he is in a position of comfort compared with activists whose lives are on the line in their efforts to effect change.

“Of course, you can’t fight every battle, but there are key ones which take a huge amount time. But the people I have immense respect for are the human rights defenders in their countries….In Australia we have serious human rights issues, with indigenous Australians and also in terms of refugees and arrivals.

Third annual Sporting Chance Forum in Paris is over

December 14, 2018

The third annual Sporting Chance Forum brought together some 300 delegates from a broad range of stakeholders to drive progress toward a world of sport that fully respects human rights.  Representatives of affected groups, sports bodies, governments, trade unions, sponsors, NGOs, broadcasters, NHRIs, and intergovernmental organisations gathered in Paris at UNESCO under the backdrop of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Reports follow in early 2019.Hosted this year by the new Centre for Sport and Human Rights, UNESCO and Institute for Human Rights and Business, the Forum covered a diversity of geographies and issues including a special spotlight on survivors of sexual abuse, athletes’ rights, worker safety, fan monitoring, media freedom, child rights, and community wellbeing.

There was also a special session  dedicated to Human Rights of Defenders, Activists, and Journalists with the following speakers:

  • Lene Wendland (Chief, Human Rights and Economic and Social Issues Section, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights)
  • Maryam Shojaei (Founder, My Fundamental Right)
  • Andreas Graf (Human Rights Manager, FIFA)
  • Courtney Radsch (Advocacy Director, Committee to Protect Journalists)
  • Moderated by: Piara Powar (Executive Director, FARE Network)

FIFA was one of the participants and reported as follows on its upcoming participation: FIFA is actively supporting the development of the Centre for Sport and Human Rights and we are glad to participate at the Sporting Chance Forum to share our experiences and best practices, and learn from stakeholders and other experts that are also dedicated to promoting human rights in sport. Since 2016, FIFA has strengthened and systematised its human rights work following guidance from the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Examples include:

  • Inclusion of an article on human rights in the FIFA Statutes in 2016 (see article 3)
  • Development of a Human Rights Policy in 2017 in accordance with principle 16 of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and international best practice
  • Systematic human rights due diligence checks and integration of human rights in the bidding and hosting requirements for its tournaments
  • Set up of an independent Human Rights Advisory Board which provides FIFA with independent expert advice on its efforts to implement article 3 of its statutes, with members from the UN system, NGOs, trade unions, FIFA sponsors and other relevant organisations, as well as regular consultation and cooperation with a large number of additional stakeholders.
  • Launch of a complaints mechanism for human rights defenders and media representatives who consider their rights to have been violated while performing work related to FIFA tournaments.

See also my recent post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/12/mary-harvey-her-goal-is-now-human-rights/

https://www.sporthumanrights.org

https://www.fifa.com/governance/news/y=2018/m=12/news=fifa-participates-at-the-sporting-chance-forum-in-paris.html

 

Mary Harvey: her goal is now human rights

December 12, 2018

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/

FIFA’s second report on human rights misses sustainable approach

December 3, 2018

FIFA’s Human Rights Advisory Board, an independent panel with a mandate to look into how FIFA tackles its human rights issues, published its second report in November 2018. (How independence is to be understood in the context of FIFA is perhaps shown by what happened to its Governance Committee: former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and others resigned in May 2017 from FIFA’s governance committee (which is not the human rights committee) saying that their independence was undercut and holding out no hope for internal reform [see: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/dec/21/our-sin-take-task-fifa-seriously and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/02/fifa-governance-committee-starts-dealing-with-a-human-rights-policy/])

The report covered the period from October 2017 to September 2018, and while it highlights progress it also shows soccer’s governing body still has a lot of work to do. The advisory board only began its work in March 2017, and described human rights as “still in the relatively early stages of being embedded in FIFA’s culture,” acknowledging that past decisions and contracts make it hard to deal with human rights issues. That can be seen by the large number of recommendations involving the Russia 2018 World Cup and the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Of the advisory board’s six recommendations for Qatar 2022, FIFA still has work to do in two areas: using its leverage to try and improve the ‘kafala’ labor system so that it is more in line with workers’ rights, and encouraging companies linked to World Cup-related employment to do more to meet international human rights standards. The focus on World cups misses out on the same issues at the Club World Cup which takes place in the UAE in December 2018.

The human rights advisory board’s existence appears in some respects to be a reaction to the criticism FIFA received over the decision to award Qatar the right to host the 2022 World Cup, but the World Cup is far bigger than just the stadiums, and ..FIFA’s narrow focus on stadium workers means it misses the chance to create a long-term positive World Cup legacy in regards to human rights.

The report highlighted that FIFA “needs to invest in a sustainable approach” to human rights rather than just provide superficial fixes. Improvements that are made when issues are in the spotlight are often fluid and can be rolled back once the world’s attention swings to another issue.

One issue that the advisory board brought up, and which will be addressed in more detail in the next report, is how women in Iran have been banned from attending men’s soccer matches.

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

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have a chance to score a point for human rights defenders

October 19, 2018

There may  be still a few people who think that human rights and sports are, or should be, separate worlds but that is pipe dream. [just dee some of these earlier posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-and-politics/].

Now Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have been urged to use an upcoming exhibition match in Saudi Arabia as an opportunity to lend their support to human rights causes. The world’s top-two ranked players will square off against one another at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City on 22 December 2018.

While the world is asking itself literally whether Saudi Arabia will get away with the murder of dissident journalist.Jamal Khashoggi, the two tennis players have both said they’re looking forward to visiting the country for the first time – with both men set to pocket more than $1-million for the match.

Amnesty International says the pair’s visit provides a perfect opportunity for the global stars to lend their support to an important cause. “It’s not for us to say which countries should and shouldn’t be hosting sporting competitions, but it’s also clear that countries like Saudi Arabia are well aware of the potential for sport to subtly ‘rebrand’ a country,” Allan Hogarth of Amnesty International told the Times.  “Tweeting support for Saudi Arabia’s brave human rights defenders would be a start.”

On it is not just Khashoggi. For the second time since July, UN human rights experts are calling on Saudi Arabia to “immediately and unconditionally” release all women human rights defenders, including six imprisoned on charges relating to their peaceful defence of human rights. The detained have been charged for being involved in pro-democracy demonstrations, and previously campaigning for the right of women to vote and drive. In late June 2018, a long-standing ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, was lifted by royal decree, UN News reports.

In a statement on October 12, the group of nine independent experts has condemned the actions of the Saudi authorities in continuing to detain the women rights defenders, “in the strongest possible terms,” calling for their “immediate and unconditional” release.

A group of those indicted – Samar Badawi, Nassima Al-Sadah, Nouf Abdulaziz, Mayya Al-Zahrani, and Hatoon Al-Fassi – are being held in detention, without any channels of communication. The five were particularly active in demonstrations for women’s rights. The group of women also include Israa Al-Ghomghan, who faces possible execution despite being denied representation during her trial, and is being tried in Riyadh’s Specialized Criminal Court, an entity set up for terrorism-related cases.


https://au.sports.yahoo.com/djokovic-nadal-issued-plea-controversial-clash-230456949.html?guccounter=1

https://socialistworker.org/2018/10/15/will-the-saudi-regime-get-away-with-murder

The United Nations human rights office (OHCHR) on July 31, 2018 called on Saudi Arabia to “unconditionally” release all those being held.

https://www.indepthnews.net/index.php/the-world/middle-east-north-africa/2217-un-urges-saudi-arabia-to-release-all-incarcerated-women-human-rights-defenders