26 February 2016, Zurich – Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa today lost his bid for the FIFA presidency, following a victory by Gianni Infantino, who won 115 votes to Sheikh Salman’s 88 votes. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) calls for continued investigation into Sheikh Salman’s relationship to rights abuses against footballers in Bahrain 2011.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, BIRD: “While I and Bahrain’s victims of rights violations are glad that Sheikh Salman lost the vote, we continue to press for an investigation into these abuses. He is still the president of Asian football, and until he is held to account and questioned, he will continue to decay human rights and transparency in FIFA and in Bahrain. If he has the courage, let him call for the release of athletes who are still prisoners of conscience in Bahrain today.”
While Sheikh Salman lost the election, the campaign for an investigation and stronger human rights commitments from FIFA continues. Earlier this month, human rights NGO Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) filed a complaint with the OECD. 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.
The current Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president and former Bahrain Football Association president is accused of chairing an Investigative Committee in April 2011 which identified and sanctioned footballers and other athletes who participated in protests and clubs which failed to attend fixture due to the insecurity of the February-March 2011 period. At the time, thousands of “Arab Spring” protesters demand political and human rights reforms, which the government met with a fatal security response.
BIRD submitted complaints to the FIFA Ethics Committee in November 2015, but the Ethics Committee did not appear to use it as a basis of investigation. In January 2016, BIRD sent letters to eight leading sponsors with full documentation.