Letter: Investigation on Sexual Abuse Allegation in Mali Basketball

Mr. Andreas Zagklis
Secretary General
Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA)

July 29, 2021

Re: Investigation on Sexual Abuse Allegation in Mali Basketball

Dear Mr. Zagklis,

The Sport & Rights Alliance (SRA) is a global coalition committed to embedding human rights and anti-corruption in world sport. We serve as a force multiplier for civil society groups and trade unions working to promote the rights of everyone affected by sport, including children, women, activists, journalists, LGBTI+ people, fans, athletes, and workers.

We are deeply concerned by the revelations of systemic sexual harassment and abuse and the lasting trauma experienced by female basketball players of Mali’s Under-19 team, documented by Human Rights Watch, one of the coalition’s founding partners.

The SRA welcomes FIBA’s swift response, including the referral of the case to the independent integrity officer, Professor Richard McLaren, as well as the announced partnership with the Swiss-based child rights organization Terre des Hommes. The SRA is encouraged by the suspension of the Mali Basketball Federation president, Harouna Maiga; as well as the recent arrest and indictment of coach Amadou Bamba for pedophilia, attempted rape and molestation. 

These are important first steps, but evidence from the ground in Mali shows players and family members are under threat as “enemies of Mali,” and powerful forces are working to silence them. This spotlights the urgency of a survivor-centered approach to protect players and whistleblowers who courageously brought complaints.  We ask FIBA to uphold your commitment to “zero tolerance” for abuse by:

  • Survivors’ access to trauma-informed counselling, health care and legal assistance;
  • Protection against retaliation for survivors and whistleblowers (including physical and digital security);
  • Ensure that the independent investigation takes a trauma-informed approach – including physical and emotional safety, actively seeking to resist re-traumatisation and ensuring athletes are informed about risks and decisions with transparency;
  • Ensure that the results of the independent investigation are made public when complete;
  • Based on the findings of the investigation, provide survivors’ access to remedy, including:
    • Formal public apologies, at a minimum;
    • Resolute disciplinary action against all individuals implicated in the abuse, including against the leadership of the Malian Basketball Federation and at FIBA;
    • Support rigorous domestic criminal investigations by the authorities when appropriate; and
    • Survivors’ continued ability to pursue their basketball careers, if not in Mali then regionally or internationally.
  • The establishment of systemic reforms to prevent and respond to cases of abuse in the future, a FIBA governance structure that include women at high levels and ensures abuse reporting mechanisms exist on a national and global level; and
  • Ensuring all players, including female, people of color and indigenous, can effectively exercise their right to organise, that they have a seat at the table and a meaningful voice in the decisions concerning them.

As independent global organizations with vast experience reporting and advocating to ensure justice and remedy for abuse and harassment in sports, we would like to offer to meet and share our expertise to:

  1. ensure survivors of abuse and whistleblowers receive adequate legal, trauma and physical safety support;
  2. provide knowledge and advice to the ongoing independent investigation led by Professor Richard McLaren; and
  3. develop policies and systems to allow other survivors to report abuse and prevent sexual harrassment and abuse from happening in the future.

The SRA is committed to ending the widespread abuse of young athletes in sports.

We look forward to your response and remain at your disposal to schedule an online meeting at your earliest convenience. We can be contacted by email at andrea@sportandrightsalliance.org.

Sincerely,

The Sport & Rights Alliance
The Army of Survivors
The Committee to Protect Journalists
Football Supporters Europe
Human Rights Watch
ILGA World (The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association)
The International Trade Union Confederation
Transparency International Germany
World Players Association, UNI Global Union

Additional Supporter
Women’s National Basketball Players Association

For the French version of this letter, please download the PDF below.

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Sport has the potential to be a catalyst for human development, unity, and freedom, but too often it instead brings harm to its athletes, fans, and communities. We exist to uncover and rectify the many abuses that exist both in and around sport. We aim to transform sports into an authentic force for good.