10 February 2016 – Today, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) filed a complaint with the Swiss Government’s National Contact Point for the OECD[1] Guidelines against FIFA[2] regarding Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa’s candidacy for the FIFA Presidency. The complaint alleges that, in allowing Sheikh Salman to stand for the Presidency, FIFA violated human rights provisions of the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

In 2011, thousands of Bahrainis peacefully protested for better recognition of democratic principles and human rights in their government. The government violently assaulted the movement, torturing hundreds of people and killing over a dozen. Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa, in his capacity as President of the Bahrain Football Association, General-Secretary of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sport, and Chairman of an inquiry committee into the behavior of athletes during the protest movement, is reported to have been involved in the government crackdown, retaliating against players and clubs alike for their peaceful activities during the protest movement.

“Sheikh Salman appears to have been involved in the government crackdown on free expression and human rights,” said Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “This raises serious concerns about his ability to protect the athletes that would be under his care as President of FIFA.”

FIFA purportedly carried out “integrity checks” on all the candidates for the FIFA Presidency which should have included investigation into involvement in human rights abuses. However, there is no evidence that adequate due diligence was carried out. Any such check would have required investigation of his role in the 2011 government assault, as a result of which he should have been determined unfit for candidacy. ADHRB has filed numerous requests for FIFA to investigate Sheikh Salman’s activities, the most recent of which it submitted in November 2015. Unfortunately, as FIFA has repeatedly ignored ADHRB’s requests to investigate, ADHRB saw no other recourse but to ask the OECD to intervene.

“The complaint is now in the hands of the Swiss Government National Contact Point, so we cannot comment on the substance save to clarify that we have repeatedly tried to raise these concerns with FIFA without success,” said Abdulla. “I have been asked whether Sheikh Salman’s public denials answer the concerns. They do not. They are contradicted by the evidence we have provided to the government and FIFA today. I hope now that the Swiss government will act quickly in expediting the complaint.”

For more information about the OECD Guidelines and their role in preventing human rights abuses, see http://www.oecdwatch.org/oecd-guidelines.

[1] Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

[2] Federation Internationale de Football Association