HRW: Global Sports Groups New Human Rights Ally in Bahrain?
2019-02-15 - 8:23 p
Bahrain Mirror: For the last eight years, the Bahraini authorities have carried out an unrelenting campaign of repression against demonstrators, opposition leaders, peaceful critics, and human rights defenders, said Aya Majzoub in a report on the eighth anniversary of the Bahraini Uprising on Wednesday(February 15, 2019).
The Lebanon and Bahrain researcher at Human Rights Watch noted that the government has been responsible for harassment, arbitrary arrests, widespread torture and ill-treatment in detention, unfair trials, citizenship revocations, and the elimination of all independent and opposition media outlets and political societies.
"Human rights defenders have lamented that no one has held Bahraini authorities responsible, as the country's key allies - notably the United States and United Kingdom - have been unwilling to use their international standing to call out these abuses," she stressed. "However, there's another influencer and key player that can effectively do so: the global sporting world."
She went on to say that just days ago, footballer Hakeem al-Araibi, a Bahraini citizen who received refugee status from Australia, was freed after being detained in Thailand after Bahrain's government sought his extradition on bogus criminal charges, adding that his fear of being tortured back in Bahrain was real.
"A global coalition of athletes, rights activists and fans, including Australian football star Craig Foster, mobilized alongside FIFA, football's governing body, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to urge Bahrain to drop its case and Thailand to let al-Araibi return to Australia. Both bodies issued strong statements publicly calling for al-Araibi's release, and FIFA's head of sustainability and diversity, Federico Addiechi, even attended al-Araibi's extradition hearing in Bangkok."
Majzoub further highlighted that Bahrain, which hosts the Formula One Grand Prix races and the Ironman Middle East Championship, has long used its association with sports to "launder" its international image and cover up its domestic repression. "Al-Araibi's case shows, that at least in the sporting realm, global sports groups can make use of their human rights policies to have a real influence on human rights."
Concluding her report, she stressed that other sports organizations - including Formula One, whose races begin in Bahrain on March 28 - should strengthen their internal human rights policies. They should make it clear to Bahrain that they will not stay silent when sports are used as an arena for human rights abuses.
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