Posts Tagged ‘sports and politics’

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

 

Really, Real Madrid honors Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi

October 1, 2018

I have written above football clubs (such as Real Madrid) having Emirates as a sponsor [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/fly-emirates/], but this time the club has done something admirable: Saturday 29 September it has honored Palestinian Ahed Tamimi, who was imprisoned for eight months this year for slapping an Israeli soldier after her cousin was shot in the head, was honored Saturday by the Real Madrid football team in Spain.

In December 2017, a video was released of Ahed slapping a soldier in the front yard of her house just hours after her cousin had been shot in the head and put in critical condition by Israeli soldiers who fired at him during a non-violent demonstration. The next day, Ahed and her mother were pulled from their beds in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers, separated, and imprisoned. Ahed was imprisoned for eight months, and released in July 2018.

17-year old Ahed was greeted by former striker Emilio Butragueno, who presented the teenager with a personalised football jersey. The jersey had ‘Ahed’ printed across the back, and the number 9, which is commonly assigned to strikers who take the front lines of the field and score most of the goals.

(In 2012, her father Bassem Tamimi, was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International)

In response to the honor by Real Madrid, Emmanuel Nahshon, the Israeli foreign minister spokesman, tweeted in Spanish, “A shame! Real Madrid receives a terrorist who incites hatred and violence. What has that to do with the values of the football?!?!”

http://imemc.org/article/spanish-football-team-real-madrid-honors-teenage-palestinian-activist-ahed-tamimi/

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

June 27, 2018

Ahmed Mansoor: ten years jail for tweeting and a street named after you

June 7, 2018

Joe Odell's picture Joe Odell (press officer for the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE) wrote on Wednesday 6 June 2018 a long piece in the Middle East Eye about the “UAE‘s shameful imprisonment of Ahmed Mansoor“. As the last dissident voice in the Emirates is silenced, it remains to be seen who is left to speak out about injustice in the UAE, he states rightly. As I have posted regularly on him (see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/13/update-on-mansoor-in-uae-after-one-year-detention-appears-in-court/), will only refer to a few highlights in Odell’s article:

“Last week Abu Dhabi’s Supreme Court sentenced the awarded-winning Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor to 10 years in prison after finding him guilty of using his social media account to “defame the nation” by spreading “rumours and lies about the UAE” and promoting “sectarian feelings and hatred” among its citizens. It is a ruthless ruling for one of the region’s most prominent rights campaigners, who in 2015 won the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders after his tireless struggle for basic political and civil rights in the UAE.……

It was almost as if the UAE wanted to get this news out in a way that created as little fanfare as possible. Many hours were to pass before the UAE state-owned publication the National confirmed that this was indeed Ahmed Mansoor; international media promptly picked up the story within minutes – no doubt to the ire of the UAE government. Emirati authorities, however, are yet to give an official comment on the court decision. More pertinently, Mansoor’s exact whereabouts remains unknown, leaving the 48-year-old father of four at grave risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FMiddleEastEye%2Fvideos%2F1707420759323305%2F&show_text=0&width=476

…..Perhaps, in his heart, Ahmed knew this day would come. But he always refused to place himself above the struggle, telling journalist Bill Law prior to his arrest: “The only way to counter repression is by revealing it. And, yes, there is always that possibility that I will go back to jail. But if activists do not talk, who will?”

This knock-on effect has already begun. In the UK, pressure is now mounting on Manchester mayor Andy Burnham to issue a statement on Ahmed’s case after a coalition of 34 NGOs, including Amnesty International and the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, demanded intervention. This is a sensitive and fought over issue in a city whose council have burgeoning commercial links with the UAE, and whose football club is owned outright by the Emirates’ deputy prime minister, Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed al-Nahyan. [see below]

…….Meanwhile, in north London, Arsenal supporters are now questioning their club’s links with the UAE, which began with their move to the Emirates Stadium more than 10 years ago. In response to Ahmed’s sentence, leading Arsenal fan website the Daily Cannon published an editorial calling for a review of the club’s sponsorship deal with Emirates Airline. Perhaps for the first time the UAE’s soft-power project in the UK now lies on contested ground, not only from regional foes, but increasingly from ordinary people across Britain….[ see also my: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/09/15/fly-emirates-if-the-emirs-let-you/]

And indeed on Friday 3 June 2018, campaigners in Manchester, UK, held a “street renaming” ceremony for Ahmed Mansoor and to highlight the city’s close links with the UAE government. Activists raised a banner saying “Ahmed Mansoor Street” in Manchester, to pressure the city’s council to bring up the case of the blogger who was sentenced to a decade in jail by UAE authorities this week.

The protest took place on Thomas Street, in the city’s fashionable Northern Quarter district. Supporters of Mansoor in the UK have asked Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to help secure the release of the free-speech activist. The campaigners believe one way that could help is for Burnham to name a street after the 2015 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders laureate.

“As the first directly-elected Mayor of Greater Manchester you are in a unique position to show leadership on this issue,” a letter by Mansoor’s supporters to Burnham stated. “Your public support for a street named after Ahmed Mansoor – and calling for his immediate and unconditional release – would demonstrate your commitment to this heritage and these ideals.

Manchester has deep ties with the Gulf state, including companies and investment groups tied to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the de-facto ruler of the UAE. The football club, Manchester City, is also owned by leading Emirati royal Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

——-

The bravest World Cup team in Russia….

June 7, 2018

On 7 June 2018, one week before the opening of the FIFA World Cup in Russia, Amnesty International comes with a marvelous contribution: a team of 11 Russian human rights champions who routinely put their lives on the line to defend human rights in Russia. A new campaign, Team Brave, will profile a human rights defender from each of the 11 regions hosting World Cup matches to raise awareness of their important work, and you can send messages of solidarity to show these brave individuals that they are not alone.

As World Cup excitement builds, we want to highlight the work of the inspiring men and women who risk their lives and freedom to fight for human rights in Russia. The lineup of Team Brave includes activists who have fought to end torture in police stations, protect the environment, defend LGBTI rights and sex workers’ rights, and support victims of domestic violence – they are the real champions in Russia,” said Inga Kelekhsaeva, Russia Campaigner at Amnesty International.

The lineup of Team Brave includes activists who have fought to end torture in police stations, protect the environment, defend LGBTI rights and sex workers’ rights, and support victims of domestic violence – they are the real champions in Russia:
  • Grozny: Oyub Titiev, the head of the NGO Memorial’s office in Chechnya imprisoned under bogus charges since January 2018
  • Sochi: Andrei Rudomakha, an environmental human rights defender who was brutally attacked in 2017
  • St Petersburg: Irina Maslova, who founded a movement to defend the rights of sex workers.
  • Volgograd: Igor Nagavkin, who worked on fighting torture and corruption in the Volgograd region until he was arbitrarily detained in October 2016.
  • Rostov-on-Don: Valentina Cherevatenko, a women’s rights activist
  • Kaliningrad: Igor Rudnikov, an independent journalist investigating cases of corruption until his arbitrary detention in 2017.
  • Samara: Oksana Berezovskaya, who runs an LGBTI rights organization
  • Nizhny Novgorod: Igor Kalyapin, who founded the Committee Against Torture
  • Kazan: Yulia Fayzrakhmanova, an environmental human rights defender
  • Yekaterinburg: Aleksei Sokolov, who fights torture and other abuses in the prison system
  • Saransk: Vasiliy Guslyannikov, the founder of the NGO Mordovian Republic Human Rights Centre

Many of these human rights defenders have faced harassment, intimidation, physical attacks, smear and in some cases have been arbitrarily detained simply for carrying out their vital work.

As part of the Team Brave campaign, Amnesty International is asking supporters to take action for three of the human rights defenders featured, who remain in prison to date or whose assailants remain at large.

Oyub Titiev has been detained for almost six months on fabricated charges because of his human rights work. Environmental human rights defender Andrei Rudomakha was brutally assaulted in 2017 by unknown assailants for documenting illegal construction work on the Black Sea coast, and his attackers still walk free. Igor Nagavkin has spent more than a year and a half in pre-trial detention on trumped-up charges for his work defending prisoners’ rights and combatting torture and corruption.

The Russian authorities cannot continue to intimidate and harass every critic into silence. With the eyes of the world on Russia, they must decide what they want the legacy of this World Cup to be. There can be no winners in Russia until human rights defenders are recognized, protected and free to do their important work unobstructed and without fear of reprisals.”

[On 29 May, FIFA took the important step of launching a complaints mechanism for human rights defenders and media representatives to report rights violations and committed to supporting human rights defenders and freedom of the press in relation to FIFA’s activities. With the 2018 World Cup taking place amidst a crackdown on human rights by the Russian authorities, FIFA commitments and mechanisms will be put to the test. Amnesty International has urged the Football’s governing body to be ready to confront the Russian authorities and use all of its leverage to effectively protect human rights defenders and stop the 2018 World Cup providing the backdrop for a renewed wave of oppression.] See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/24/fifa-expresses-concern-about-chechen-human-rights-defender-but-to-whom/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/06/russia-the-bravest-world-cup-team-youve-never-heard-of/