KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: The human rights controversy over FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa refuses to go away, despite his insistence that all allegations laid against him are lies.
Newly-obtained material obtained from the Bahrain Ministry of Information corroborates the allegations, according to his critics.
Sheikk Salman, a member of the ruling family of Bahrain, has never escaped claims that he helped identify footballers who participated in Bahrain’s pro-democracy protests in 2011 and were later detained and, in some cases, tortured.
The Sheikh, who was president of the Bahrain Football Association, is now president of the Asian Football Confederation and a vice-president of world governing body FIFA. He is one of seven men who have submitted applications to contest the FIFA presidential election being staged in February 26.
Opposition has come already from the Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD).
They have produced documentation claiming that on April 7, 2011, the Bahrain Football Association announced on the state-run Bahrain News Agency that it would sanction and suspend all players, coaches and staff who “violated the law” by attending illegal demonstrations, or “any other action with the objective of removing the regime or insulting national symbols.”
Committee of inquiry
Four days later the Bahrain News Agency reported the formation of a committee to inquire into athletes’ conduct in the February-March 2011 popular protest movement.
The BNA article, in Arabic, confirmed that Sheikh Salman was appointed as the head of the new committee by the son of Bahrain’s King, Prince Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
On 20 April, another report by the state-owned press announced Sheikh Salman’s committee’s decisions to penalise clubs suspected of participating in protests, or which were unable to attend matches due to the heightened security situation.
The committee reportedly fined six clubs $20,000, suspended them for two years, and relegated two to the league’s second division. All six clubs had previously written a joint-letter to the BFA, in February that year, asking to be allowed to temporarily suspend their sporting activities due to the heightened security situation.
Husain Abdulla, executive director of ADHRB, said: “Six clubs wrote a letter pleading to Sheikh Salman to halt activities for the safety of their players. A few months later, Sheikh Salman destroyed them with fines, suspensions and relegation. He then went after their players.
“He was incapable as head of the Bahrain Football Association and he should not be trusted with the governing of world football.”
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD: “These are not lies. This is the nasty truth that Sheikh Salman can’t avoid any longer. We have said it before and we will say it again, the facts of Sheikh Salman’s involvement in human rights violations is well documented and comes straight from the horse’s mouth.”
Sheikh Salman responded to the latest, more specific, allegations with a further denial.
In a statement he said: “Recent allegations are entirely false and categorically denied. While it was proposed that Sheikh Salman lead a fact-finding committee in relation to the events of 2011, that committee was never formally established and never conducted any business whatsoever.
“For the record, and in light of the recycling of historic allegations in the media, Sheikh Salman had absolutely no involvement in the identification, investigation, prosecution or mistreatment of any individuals as has been alleged.”
Sheikh Salman’s critics will aver that his admission that there was to be a committee and that he was appointed to lead it, is more of a concession than he has ever offered before.