ADHRB Asks FIFA to Investigate Role of Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa in 2011 Detention and Abuse of Football Players

ADHRB sent a letter to Mr. Joseph Blatter, president of the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA), calling for an investigation into allegations of unethical behavior by FIFA committee member Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa. This letter follows a similar request made by ADHRB to the Asian Football Confederation last week.

As described in the letter, following the outbreak of peaceful protests in Bahrain in 2011, the Government of Bahrain responded with a brutal crackdown, killing dozens and arresting thousands. Among the participants in the protests were more than 150 athletes, coaches, referees, and other sports staff. Shortly after the crackdown, Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, a member of the royal family, was put in charge of a committee formed to arrest, detain, and punish members of the sporting community who participated in protests.

As a member of the committee, Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa, in his capacity as president of the Bahrain Football Association, used photographs to identify Bahraini football players who participated in protests, leading to their arrest, detention, abuse, torture, and public humiliation.

Article 13 of the FIFA Code of Ethics requires officials to “act with complete credibility and integrity” and “to respect all applicable laws and regulations as well as FIFA’s regulatory framework.” Additionally, Article 23 of the code prohibits officials from “offend[ing] the dignity or integrity of a … private person or group of people through contemptuous discriminatory or denigratory word or actions on account of … political opinion or any other opinion … .” Similarly, article 24 forbids harassment by officials and requires them to “ensure that the personal rights of every individual whom they contact and who is affected by their actions is protected, respected, and safeguarded.”

By aiding in the identification of Bahrain’s football players who participated in peaceful protests in 2011, resulting in their arrest, detention, and abuse, Sheikh Salman Al-Khalifa is complicit in the very forms of discrimination, harassment, and abuse prohibited by FIFA’s Code of Ethics.

In its letter to Mr. Blatter, ADHRB asked that the allegations be referred to Mr. Michael Garcia, Chairman of FIFA’s Ethics Committee, for investigation. If such allegations are substantiated, ADHRB also asked that Sheikh Al-Khalifa’s membership on FIFA’s standing committees be terminated, and that any additional action deemed appropriate by the Ethics Committee be pursued.

ADHRB’s letter to FIFA’s president follows a similar request made by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights late last week.