haiti soccer player abuse Fifa
Residents of the Centre Technique National in Croix-des-Bouquets play in a match on May 12, 2020. Earlier this year, survivors and family members accused Haitian Football Federation president, Yves Jean-Bart, of raping young female players at the center and subjecting them to other abuses. © 2020 PIERRE MICHEL JEAN/AFP via Getty Images

FIFA Should Ban Officials Who Exploit Children

Human Rights Watch

haiti female soccer players abuse
Residents of the Centre Technique National in Croix-des-Bouquets play in a match on May 12, 2020. Earlier this year, survivors and family members accused Haitian Football Federation president, Yves Jean-Bart, of raping young female players at the center and subjecting them to other abuses.  © 2020 PIERRE MICHEL JEAN/AFP via Getty Images

(New York) – The International Federation of Association Football (Fédération Internationale de Football Association, FIFA) should permanently ban Haitian Football Federation president Yves Jean-Bart from participating in football, Human Rights Watch said today. On October 15, 2020, FIFA announced that its investigative team completed its report on Jean-Bart, who is accused of raping and committing other sexual abuse of children and young women. On November 22, FIFA’s second 90-day suspension of Jean-Bart expires

Haitian authorities should effectively investigate these allegations, expeditiously issue relevant charges, and ensure safety for survivors, Human Rights Watch said.

FIFA’s investigation followed multiple allegations that child athletes were subjected to sexual and other abuses at Haiti’s Centre Technique National in Croix-des-Bouquets, also known as “The Ranch.” FIFA’s adjudicatory chamber, which has the authority to hand down a lifetime ban and issue substantial fines, will determine the outcome. FIFA suspended Jean-Bart from “all football activities” in May and extended the suspension on August 20. However, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported that Jean-Bart, also known as “Dadou,” was visiting young academy players at the Ranch “in the middle of the night,” which raises questions about how the suspension is enforced.

“FIFA urgently needs to protect children who are still at risk from Jean-Bart by ensuring his current ban is enforced, fully investigating all other Haitian Football Federation leaders accused of knowing about or facilitating sexual abuse, and cooperating with criminal authorities that pursue these crimes,” said Minky Worden, global initiatives director at Human Rights Watch. “This is not a case of one bad apple. Athletes have testified that many other officials in the Haitian Football Federation – officials responsible for their safety – either participated in sexual abuse or knew and turned a blind eye.”

Since May, Human Rights Watch has interviewed numerous witnesses and collected evidence of systemic human rights abuses in Haitian football, including confiscation of players’ passports, labor rights abuses, grooming child athletes for sexual exploitation, and threats to kill witnesses and survivors. FIFA’s independent Ethics Tribunal has had its own team on the ground in Haiti, and Human Rights Watch has worked with FIFA’s human rights team to ensure that trauma therapy is provided to survivors and that witnesses could be protected, and has provided evidence of specific abuses to FIFA, while protecting survivors’ identities.

Jean-Bart has been Haiti’s football federation president since 2000 and was re-elected to a sixth term in February 2020. He also oversees youth, men, and women’s teams and training, and a girls’ team called the Tigresses, which he founded in 1972. Jean-Bart has publicly denied all allegations against him.

FIFA suspended two other federation staff in August and one in October, making a total of four officials now under FIFA investigation for allegedly participating in the sexual assaults of players and other crimes. Human Rights Watch is aware of complaints against at least five other senior federation officials, including allegations of abuse of athletes and referees. Three of those senior officials were named in a report by The Guardian newspaper which confirmed that Fenelus Guerrier, Garry Nicholas, and Rosnick Grant, a federation vice president who is also head of the national referees’ commission, are under investigation.

Multiple football players told Human Rights Watch that Guerrier took their passports or that Jean-Bart held them, a practice associated with human trafficking, captivity, and control. Athletes told Human Rights Watch that this led to manipulation, coercion, and a terrifying cycle of abuses. Without their passports, they said, they could not flee to safety to disclose abuse. Many former athletes said their passports were never returned. “Holding my passport is a way to ensure my silence,” said one former player.  

“While monitoring conditions at the Ranch, we learned that federation officials took documents considered sensitive, including 11 passports of female players from various football clubs,” said Pierre Esperance, the executive director of National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains, RNDDH), which published a report about alleged sexual abuse at Haiti’s football federation. “These passports later ended up in the hands of Yves Jean-Bart, which means he could extort and silence victims and witnesses.”

In Haiti, women and girls struggle to get justice, and gender-based violence is a widespread problem. Haiti does not have specific legislation against domestic violence, sexual harassment, or other forms of violence targeted at women and girls. Rape was only explicitly criminalized in 2005, by ministerial decree. Continue reading

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