Sexual abuse case puts FIFA under scrutiny again

FIFA’s ethics committee has now opened an investigation into the claims, while the players say they have been threatened and told to drop their accusations. “We have written to ask FIFA to create all the conditions necessary that the victims could give their testimonies in safety.” A former player on the women’s team, who said she was propositioned when she was 16 and touched in a suggestive manner, said she received threats by phone, and knew of others who were threatened after the publication of the first reports connecting the accusations to Jean-Bart. Shortly after the accusations were first received, a senior FIFA official with no experience in handling cases of sexual abuse or ethics complaints inadvertently mentioned the possibility of an impending case to the Haitian soccer federation during a routine catch-up call, not knowing that it was inappropriate to discuss it. “This is about duty of care,” said Minky Worden, the director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, who has been working to independently verify the facts in the case. “How can a player who is a witness or is a survivor have confidence in FIFA when the first phone call that went out on this is to the federation staff who work for the alleged abuser? It could definitely leave players with the impression the first instinct is to protect the federation and not the victims of abuse.” FIFA said it was reviewing its protocols “to ensure that it is best equipped to respond to cases of sexual abuse and any form of violence in football.” Last year, after the case in Afghanistan, FIFA rolled out a framework for protecting children in the 211 countries it represents, providing what it described as a tool kit to prevent harm. “As the world governing body of football, FIFA has a duty and responsibility to ensure that those who play football can do so in a safe, positive and enjoyable environment,” FIFA’s secretary general, Fatma Samoura, said at the start of the program, which was named FIFA Guardians. Yet FIFA did not make the guidelines compulsory, even though they have been praised by outside experts, and left it largely up to local soccer officials to resolve cases. FIFA, which sits on a cash reserve of more than billion, does not have a unit dedicated to handling complaints of abuse. For instance, FIFA’s head of women’s soccer had no formal training in handling sexual abuse cases when she assumed the role of point person during the Afghan scandal, in which players on the national team recounted how the soccer president at the time, Keramuddin Keram, who was also a militia leader, had raped and sexually abused them. Mary Harvey, a former World Cup winner on the United States national team who now heads the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, which is based in Geneva, said FIFA’s ethics mechanisms were not designed to deal with accusations of abuse.