19 March 2019
HAKEEM AL-ARAIBI SHOCKED AND DISAPPOINTED AT FFA’S CONTINUED SUPPORT OF SHEIKH SALMAN
Football Federation Australia must explain why it is supporting Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman bin Al-Khalifa for reelection as AFC President, despite the very serious unresolved human rights allegations that continue to hang over his head, says Hakeem al-Araibi and the human rights organisations who worked to bring him home.
Al-Araibi, who was himself detained and tortured in Bahrain said, “I was overwhelmed by the support I had from the Australian and Asian football communities who worked so hard to free me from unjust detention in Thailand. Today I am shocked and disappointed that the FFA has decided to continue to support a person who oversaw my detention and torture in Bahrain. How can he be a ‘fit and proper’ leader for football in our region?
“The head of the FFA, Chris Nikou must address these concerns and ask serious questions about how they do not breach FFAs own human rights policy.”
The Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR), Amnesty International Australia and Human Rights Watch all campaigned to return Hakeem to Australia and are calling for the FFA to be accountable for its decision.
“Sheikh Salman has been linked to serious human rights abuses in Bahrain, including the imprisonment and torture of Hakeem Al-Araibi, which FIFA has failed to address,” Amnesty International Australia’s Tim O’Connor said.
“Rather than address these issues, they have chosen to prioritise financial growth over standing up for what’s right.”
Fatima Yazbek from the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights said: “The candidacy of Sheikh Salman to be reelected as AFC President is a breach to the AFC statues itself, as Article 3 clearly states that AFC shall protect and promote all human rights, prohibits and punishes discrimination of any kind.
“Sheikh Salman is convicted of being involved in targeting the Bahraini athletes in 2011, defaming, insulting, and arbitrarily banning them from playing over expressing their political opinions and demanding their rights peacefully. Sheikh Salman failed to protect Hakeem Al-Araibi's human rights when refused to advocate for his release and was involved in targeting Al-Araibi.
“FFA's statement was shocking, that they slammed all the efforts of the Australian community, which advocated for Al-Araibi's freedom, and all the human rights commitments, and chosen to prioritise their own benefits.”
Sheikh Salman, a member of the Bahraini royal family, failed to seek the release of Hakeem Al-Araibi when he was detained in Thailand when an illegal Interpol red notice was issued for his arrest at the behest of the Bahraini authorities.
According to reports, in 2011 Sheikh Salman headed up a committee to round up athletes who had protested against the Bahraini regime.
For further information and for media interviews, please contact Amnesty International Media on 0423 552 208.
The Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights on 0421 237 922.