FIFA, the worldwide football association, should abide by its statutes and human rights responsibilities and instruct the Israel Football Association to stop holding games in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Human Rights Watch, Avaaz, and EuMEP said on Wednesday.
Tokyo Sexwale, chair of the monitoring committee established by FIFA to address the issue, has prepared a report with recommendations to be discussed at a committee meeting today in Zurich.
The report is expected to be sent to senior members of the FIFA Council in advance of their March 30 meeting and then be brought before the May 11 FIFA Congress in Bahrain for approval.
“FIFA has an opportunity finally to end its sponsorship of football matches in unlawful Israeli settlements in the West Bank,” said Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “FIFA should make sure that when both Israelis and Palestinians play football, they follow the rules.”
Along with civil society organizations and parliamentarians across the world, Human Rights Watch, Avaaz, and EuMEP have called for FIFA to bar its affiliate, the Israeli Football Association (IFA), from organizing football activities in West Bank settlements, because those settlements are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention governing the transfer of population to occupied territory.
Six IFA football clubs are based in settlements and host their official home matches there, on land unlawfully taken from and off-limits to Palestinians.
FIFA has recently affirmed its commitment to respecting human rights in a report it commissioned from Professor John Ruggie. It held the first meeting of its new human rights advisory council last week.
By committing to integrating the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights into all its activities, FIFA promised to avoid contributing to serious human rights abuses.
FIFA’s own statutes prohibit a member association from holding games on the territory of another member association without permission. When Russia occupied Crimea in 2014, FIFA’s European affiliate UEFA blocked Russia from incorporating teams from Crimea in its national league competitions.
“Hundreds of thousands of football fans across the world expect FIFA to show that it is serious about respecting its human rights responsibilities,” said Fadi Quran, senior campaigner at Avaaz.
“There is only one non-political, fair solution: no more FIFA games in illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land.”