Posts Tagged ‘sports and politics’

IOC continues its cautious work on human rights and takes first steps on a strategy

March 4, 2020

Executive Board IOC
HRH Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Rachel Davis, Vice-President of Shift – a leading non-profit centre of expertise on business and human rights – formally presented their joint “Recommendations for an IOC Human Rights Strategy” to IOC President Thomas Bach in February. IOC/Greg Martin
Recommendations for a strategic framework on human rights were commissioned by the IOC in March 2019 and developed over the course of a year, in which Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Rachel Davis, Vice-President of Shift, evaluated the IOC’s current approach, including through consultation with key internal staff and expert civil society stakeholders. A range of recommendations made in the confidential report by Prince Zeid and Rachel Davis will need to be consulted on internally, and will be further considered in the development of the new strategy. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/03/olympic-committee-tries-its-hands-on-human-rights-cautiously/.
Continuing – still cautiously !! – in March 2020 the IOC Executive Board, welcoming the overarching recommendation, confirmed its commitment to develop a comprehensive and cohesive human rights strategy for the IOC. As immediate next steps towards the implementation of this approach, the IOC EB has agreed to:
  • develop and adopt a detailed overarching strategy on human rights, encompassing the IOC’s human rights responsibilities in its own operations (including the activities of the IOC administration as well as the IOC’s role as organiser of the Olympic Games), and setting out its role to advance respect for human rights as the leader of the Olympic Movement, in cooperation with the National Olympic Committees and the International Federations;
  • establish a Human Rights Unit with expert leadership to elaborate and drive the detailed strategy in practice, in close collaboration with key departments that will be essential to delivering on the IOC’s commitment;
  • continue to strengthen human rights due diligence, the use of leverage and engagement with affected stakeholders in existing areas of work, including the IOC’s efforts on the prevention of harassment and abuse in sport, engagement with Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games Organising Committees on human rights impacts, and in the IOC’s own procurement; and
  • establish the previously announced IOC Human Rights Advisory Committee once the human rights strategy – as the basis for its work – is further elaborated and internal resources and cross-functional structures are in place to make the IOC’s human rights commitment fully operational.

Shift has provided advisory support to the IOC on human rights since early 2018, and will continue to provide operational support and expertise during the transition to the IOC’s new internal human rights capacities.

https://www.olympic.org/news/ioc-continues-working-on-human-rights-and-takes-first-steps-on-a-strategy

https://www.insidethegames.biz/index.php/articles/1091429/ioc-delay-human-rights-committee

Dakar Rally starts on 5 January in Jeddah but HRDs in jail

January 4, 2020

To end the year: sports washing quotes in 2019 from the Guardian:

December 31, 2019

Having this year spent quite a bit of time on the issue of celebrites [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/star-power/] and sports washing [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-washing/] I thought that these quotes from the Guardian of 29 December 2019 are fitting end of year message:

Gianni Infantino in June – addressing Fifa’s congress two years after he sacked the ethics team investigating him. “We turned it around! Fifa has gone from being toxic, almost criminal, to what it should be: synonymous with credibility, trust, integrity, equality, and with human rights.His other big message in 2019: rejecting talk that it was Fifa’s new reliance on Chinese sponsors that led it to drop all human rights checks and award China the 2021 Club World Cup. “There are problems in this world, everywhere, in many countries. It is not the mission of Fifa to solve the problems of this world.

Also not buying complaints from human rights and ethics groups about sportswashing in 2019 UEFA head Aleksander Ceferin:

a) Explaining why holding the Europa League final in Azerbaijan was the right thing to do: “Human rights is a problem in other places too. Does it mean the fans in Baku do not deserve live football?”, and

b) reacting to the World Anti‑Doping Agency’s call for Russia to be stripped of Euro 2020 by confronting Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg. His message to Putin – Uefa stands by Russia because: “I must say, the World Cup was organised perfectly… I do not speak just to be nice: I really mean it.

from: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/dec/29/alternative-2019-sports-awards-quotes-gaffes-meltdowns

Annual reports 2019: Sport and Human Rights

December 29, 2019

Mary Harvey, CEO, the Centre for Sport and Human Rights

The 4th annual report 2019 I would like to mention comes in the form of a preface by Mary Harvey of Sports and Human Rights [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/12/mary-harvey-her-goal-is-now-human-rights/]

As my first year leading the Centre for Sport and Human Rights comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on some of what we have achieved in 2019 as we look ahead to where we need to make further progress in 2020. At the 2018 Sporting Chance Forum in Paris, I said we were at a point where the sport and human rights movement had been mobilised, and it was important to translate the theory of change behind the Centre’s creation into concrete action.

The opportunity to demonstrate this came sooner than expected. Prior to my start in January, many of our stakeholders raised the concerning case of the detainment and possible refoulement of refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi, and rightly asked how the Centre was going to respond. My first week on the job, the Centre convened calls to bring together sports bodies, governments, IGOs, corporates, and civil society with the sole objective of freeing Hakeem. The combined efforts and collective action of the Centre, Advisory Council and others not only played an important role in freeing Hakeem, but provided a powerful and indelible example of what we can achieve together..

Building on the resources developed as part of the MSE Platform, our work in 2019 set out to put these tools into action, including by helping strengthen the capacity of those working most closely with sport. We developed new tools which are now with you for consultation (Games Time Risk Guide, Championing Human Rights into the Governance of Sports Bodies – annex specific to Multi-sport governing bodies). In September, we had the opportunity to deliver human rights training to the 53 national federations that make up the Commonwealth Sport family. We also engaged prospective bidding countries for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Finally, we held briefing calls with our broadcaster stakeholders on human rights issues at events taking place in countries such as Azerbaijan, China and Saudi Arabia.

In May of this year, with the landmark decision from CAS ruling against Caster Semenya, it became clear that human rights awareness needed to be raised and capacity built for those who give legal advice to sports bodies. As part of our developing work on Remedy this year and to begin this important conversation, the Centre hosted a workshop for sports law practitioners with our colleagues at Clifford Chance. The event more than met expectations, with consistent feedback from attendees who welcomed debate on an important topic in need of serious engagement.  We are pleased that, with the support of colleagues at Clifford Chance, the workshop will be an annual event going forward.

We took our first steps during 2019 to work with partners in Africa by hosting a workshop in Rabat, Morocco which brought together a number of sports bodies and national human rights institutions from both anglophone and francophone countries on the continent. We took further steps in developing our Africa Strategy by hosting 16 African National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) at an event in Rwanda to discuss child rights and remedy.

On children, the Centre expanded its own capacity by appointing our first senior thematic expert. Millions of children and young people take part in sporting activities every day across the world, and they have the right to participate in sport in a safe and enjoyable environment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. One of the first actions the Centre took on child rights was to successfully lobby to ensure that references to sport were included in the Guidelines to Optional Protocol 2 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

——

More on Ozil and self censorship by western companies

December 20, 2019

deputy director of research at Chinese Human Rights Defenders) Arsenal player was right to speak up, and western companies should remember that staying silent is no guarantee of China’s favour. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/16/china-arsenal-ozil-and-freedom-of-expression/]

Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil posted to his millions of social media fans about the persecution of Uighurs in China.
Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil posted to his millions of social media fans about the persecution of Uighurs in China. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

..Arsenal’s response has been a cynical attempt to placate government-manufactured outrage in the pursuit of profits over principles. Executives should remember that critical Chinese voices face detention and censorship. Following in the footsteps of many brands that adopted the Chinese Communist party (CCP) political stance, the club released a Chinese-language statement that “The content published is Özil’s personal opinion. As a football club, Arsenal has always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics.” The statement still does not appear on its English-language social media accounts or website.

As many NBA fans found out in October, when the Houston Rockets manager sparked a major crisis for briefly supporting the Hong Kong protestors, sports clubs are not prepared to stand up to the Chinese government for fear that it will shut down a significant source of revenue. Though global football institutions stayed silent when Uighur footballer Erfan Hezim was sent to an internment camp, they should not look away now that one of the sport’s most prominent players has forced the issue. China will host the 2021 Club World Cup and Xi Jinping has his eye on hosting the World Cup. Human rights abuses should not be swept under the rug.

No matter how much brands grovel to the Chinese government, they will always be vulnerable to nationalist sentiment inflamed by the Communist party that has tied its legitimacy on having led the country out of its “century of national humiliation”. Self-censorship is not a guarantee of protection for western brands and only exposes their hypocrisy to fans back home in democracies. Instead of falsely claiming they do not involve themselves in politics, Arsenal should use this opportunity to stand up for human rights.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/commentisfree/2019/dec/18/mesut-ozil-china-row-western-brands-be-warned-self-censorship-wont-protect-you

China, Arsenal, Ozil and freedom of expression…

December 16, 2019

On 16 December 2019 wrote in the Guardian “Craven Arsenal abandon Mesut Özil over his stance on China’s Uighur persecution“.  He argued that the midfielder is in tune with human rights groups over the imprisonment of millions of Uighurs but the club chose to raise a white flag. The incident touches on more than the freedom of expression of an individual player. ‘Sports washing’ (see earlier posts:  https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-washing/) is a widespread phenomenon to which Arsenal itself in no stranger. It plays in the Emirates Stadium and in Emirates T-shirts (in a 280 million $ deal) without ever mentioning Ahmed Mansoor the UAE’s most prominent political prisoner [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/07/ahmed-mansoor-ten-years-jail-for-tweeting-and-a-street-named-after-you/]

A demonstrator in Istanbul holds up a picture of Arsenal’s Mesut Özil who expressed his horror at China’s treatment of the Uighurs.

On the Chinese social media site Weibo Arsenal quicly posted that Özil’s comments were merely his “personal opinion” and reminding that “Arsenal has always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics”. The article nicely quotes Simon Chadwick, a professor of sports enterprise at Salford University who specialises in China: “The world is in the midst of an ideological battle: western liberalism versus eastern authoritarianism. And sport is one of the front lines.”

Also saying it is just a personal opinion, seems a bit much:  Özil was entirely in tune with a United Nations panel and multiple human rights groups who have spoken out about the imprisonment of millions of Uighur people in internment camps without trial for “re-education” in what has been described as the largest incarceration of one ethnic group since the Holocaust, with multiple accounts of torture, rape and abuse from eyewitnesses who have passed through.

Celebrities have been criticised for NOT speaking out when they insist on touring human rights violating regimes (e.g. only last week Anthony Joshua was widely criticised for not speaking out about human rights in Saudi Arabia and Mariah Carey in July this year [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/10/nicki-minaj-did-the-right-thing-and-cancelled-her-performance-in-saudi-arabia/]. states” Yet can you blame sportspeople for staying quiet when they see Özil bravely raising his head above the parapet only to be shot down by his own club? As for Arsenal not involving themselves in politics, what did the club think they were doing when they agreed a £30m deal with the Rwandan government to promote tourism?

It would seem that what is ‘political’ is mostly determined by the sensitivity and power of the country being targeted. And in the case of China there is very little margin. Whether it is the according of awards to dissidents or accepting statements on Hong Kong by NBA officials [see more generally: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/12/06/china-and-its-amazing-sensitivity-on-human-rights-defenders/]. As stated: The decision by CCTV not to show Arsenal’s match against Manchester City is another reminder that there is no middle ground here. No way to stick up for human rights and free speech without angering China. You are either for such values or against them.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/dec/16/arsenal-mesut-ozil-uighurs-china

Tour de France also used for sportswashing by Bahrain

July 8, 2019

Vincenzo Nibali riding for Bahrain-Merida in 2018.
Vincenzo Nibali riding for Bahrain-Merida in 2018. Ten campaign groups say the team are helping to draw attention from the country’s ‘appalling human rights record’. Photograph: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

in the Guardian of 3 July 2019 reports on the efforts by a group of NGOs to have the UCI, cycling’s governing body, look again at the license of the Bahrain-Merida cycling team.

In the letter, under the umbrella of the Sport and Rights Alliance and led by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird), the signatories claim that the team, led by the 2014 Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali, is a vehicle for the Bahrain government to “sportswash” its appalling human rights abuses. “The Bahraini government has a reputation for using high-profile sporting events to divert international attention from the country’s appalling human rights record,” the letter states, “and we are concerned that Bahrain-Merida’s participation in UCI competitions is consistent with these aims.” The letter alleges that the Bahrain-Merida team may be in violation of the UCI’s code of ethics, which requires participants to “show commitment to an ethical attitude”.

However, the signatories draw attention in their letter to the fact that the Bahrain-Merida team was launched in 2017 by a son of the ruling king of Bahrain, Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, who is still described as the team’s leader on its website. ..Sheikh Nasser is a senior figure in the country’s sports institutions, chairing the Olympic committee until March this year. In 2011 he called publicly, on television, for the punishment of sportspeople who had taken part in demonstrations, saying: “To everyone that demands the fall of the regime, may a wall fall on their heads … whether he is an athlete, an activist or a politician … Today is the judgment day.”  Also, several of the sponsors – which include the Bahrain sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat and the oil company Bapco which itself says that it is wholly owned by the government – are described as “semi-government companies”.

For more on “Sportswashing” see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/22/andrew-anderson-the-dangerous-game-of-sportswashing/

A UCI spokesperson told the Guardian that it had been aware of the “allegations of human rights violations by the Bahrain regime … prior to the initial registration of Bahrain-Merida as a UCI WorldTeam late 2016.” The spokesperson did not explain what approach the UCI took to the human rights concerns, or why they were not a barrier to the team’s registration. He added: “For the upcoming season, the independent licence commission will review the applicable criteria, including ethical, based on all available information pertaining to the team. The assessment … concentrates on the team and its members.”

Sayed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at Bird, described that as a “very disappointing” response. “We raised similar concerns in 2016 and despite the severity of our concerns the UCI awarded Bahrain-Merida team the WorldTeam licence,” he said. “We are asking the UCI now to be transparent about their due diligence and to disclose their assessment, as a rational assessment must account for a history of severe rights abuses.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/jul/03/bahrain-merida-cycling-team-being-used-to-sportswash-campaigners-say

Sports and Politics: Minsk 2019 apes Baku 2015 and with similar results

June 17, 2019

Belarus news, Alexander Lukashenko, European Games 2019, European Games Minsk, European Games Baku, Belarus human rights, Belarus press freedom, sports and human rights, European Olympic Committee, corruption in sport

Minsk, Belarus, 05/09/2019 © Tricky_Shark / Shutterstock

The second edition of the European Games is set to kick off on June 21 2019 in Minsk, Belarus. Events covering 15 different sports, from archery to sambo, will be contested over nine days. The 10 disciplines recognized as Olympic sports are especially important because they serve as qualifications for Tokyo 2020. Belarus finds itself trying to oversee a successful international sporting event while at the same time dismissing condemnation of its domestic political situation.

International organizations such as the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch routinely criticize the human rights conditions in Belarus. Actions such as peaceful protests and membership in opposition organizations are basically criminalized under Belarusian law. Access to websites critical of the government is routinely denied, and press freedom curtailed. To add to this, Belarus remains the last country in Europe to employ the death penalty. These issues once again have risen to the fore when Belarus was selected to host the European Games that are thought to represent a different political culture.

These views are echoed by Human Rights Watch, which strongly pushed the European Olympic Committees (EOC) for assurances that journalists can carry out their work unhindered during the games. For its part, the EOC states that it will appoint special observers to ensure press freedom, but critics contend this is not enough. Key questions remain about the conditions for journalists when the games are over, and whether the EOC will ensure action if serious issues arise. The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) went so far as to contemplate a boycott of the 2019 European Games. It was a half-hearted idea, as the DOSB viewed the maneuver as a last resort rather than an actionable response to the situation in Belarus. In the end, the requirement for athletes to achieve qualifications for the Tokyo Olympics quashed any sort of political activism.

Further, the Sports and Rights Alliance — a coalition of leading NGOs, sports organizations and trade unions — petitioned for positive advancements for Belorussian human rights prior to the commencement of this year’s games. It alleges that the EOC overlooks duties established in the Olympic Charter to protect human rights and dignity. At the recent Olympism in Action Forum, which focused on the relation of human rights and sport, David Grevemberg, chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation, stated that “You’re judged by the company you keep and what you stand for.”..

Azerbaijan hosted the first European Games in Baku in 2015. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/06/12/baku-games-starting-today-with-avalanche-of-human-rights-criticism/] It is apparent that the past experience of 2015 had little effect on the EOC, and that the organization will not shift its mandate to accommodate the demands put forward by human rights defenders. Baku 2015 provides a template and numerous lessons for Minsk 2019. In the case that Minsk can put on a well-managed spectacle with memorable moments of sporting excellence, human rights concerns will not overshadow the Belarusian edition of the European Games.

.,… Lukashenko explained that “Visitors should get positive impressions of their stay in Belarus, in Minsk, and should take these impressions back home.” The president often refers to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and how the event improved opinions about Russia prior to the ensuing scandals linked to the Kremlin. Lukashenko knows there is a tough task ahead of him in regard to the human rights lobby and criticism of his strongman style of governance. However, the EOC’s president, Janez Kocijančič, firmly stated that any human rights concerns would not overshadow the competition, and that it is not in the dominion of the sports committee to influence domestic politics of host nations. This is a reaffirmation that sport is to be kept separate from politics and goes neatly along with Lukashenko’s retorts to criticism…

It is naive to believe that sport and politics are separate, as much as EOC and Belarusian officials insist on that principle. While the actual sporting activities are guided by apolitical rules, both the atmosphere and the message of large-scale events are inherently political. Hosting duties bring international scrutiny of human rights offences, while the country anticipates a public relations makeover. Both require diplomatic nuance and managed interactions with the regional community. Thus, levels of political involvement are apparent….

International sporting events held in countries with tainted human rights records often become lighting rods in the global community. It is of great importance to highlight these issues and to focus attention on states that regularly infringe upon basic freedoms. However, little perceptible success has been achieved by international NGOs advising boycotts or protective mechanisms by the umbrella organizations responsible for the events — in this case the EOC.

It is a difficult task to shift the development and implementation of a large-scale multidisciplinary event with a lot invested in its success on all sides. Campaigns need to expand their reach beyond those involved in the human rights movement who are already aware of calls to action. Social engagement must overcome the collective excitement over sport.

……

It seems that sport governing bodies struggle with achieving a balance between spectacle and sport. This issue will continue to complicate the relationship between athletics and politics, as liberal democracies balk at the cost of hosting such events, while states with debatable democratic records seek legitimacy from the international community. Sports diplomacy delivers this through soft power.

See on this tipic also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/01/sports-and-human-rights-focus-on-sports-washing-big-names-play-for-big-money/

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Belarus Understands the Diplomatic Power of Sport

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

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/02/14/global-sports-groups-new-human-rights-ally-bahrain