Mali: Inquiry Links Basketball Federation to Sexual Abuse


(Nyon, Switzerland) – The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) report on systemic sexual harassment and abuse within the Malian Basketball Federation (FMBB) proves the victims of abuse, the survivors , to whistleblowers and activists who took enormous risks to bring these abuses to light, the Sport & Rights Alliance said today.

After the New York Times and Human Rights Watch documented sexual abuse and cover-ups in Malian basketball in June 2021, FIBA ​​appointed Canadian lawyer and FIBA ​​integrity officer Richard McLaren to conduct independent investigation through McLaren Global Sports Solutions. The 149-page report, released on September 14, verified accounts of sexual exploitation, extortion and reprisals within the Malian Basketball Federation, revealing “institutionalized acceptance of sexual abuse.”

“The FIBA ​​report confirms the systemic abuse of teenage basketball girls in Mali for years,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch. “While it is important that the head coach has been charged and that seven basketball officials are suspended, FIBA ​​and the government of Mali should urgently put in place policies to protect the basketball. childhood and protections for players who testify. “

In July, Malian authorities arrested and indicted Amadou Bamba, the head coach of Mali’s national women’s under-18 basketball team, who is awaiting trial for “pedophilia, attempted rape and murder. modesty “. FIBA has suspended FMBB president Harouna Maiga for obstructing the investigation and covering up sexual abuse.

Critical gaps remain in the approach taken by McLaren’s independent investigative team, including with respect to confidentiality, trauma support and witness protection, the Sport & Rights Alliance said. Since the start of the investigation, a survivor-centered approach and trauma-informed process have been dangerously absent.

The report points out that 22 survivors were intimidated by officials from the basketball federation or others and decided not to testify at McLaren. Those who agreed to be interviewed also said they feared reprisals. One player reported that the Malian federation directly retaliated by removing her from the World Cup national team after she and her family reported sexual abuse.

Sexual and gender-based violence beyond sport is a widespread problem in Mali. A 2018 survey by the National Institute of Statistics found that nearly half of Malian women and girls aged 15 to 49 had experienced gender-based violence.

All relevant institutions, including the Malian justice system, the Malian Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Malian Basketball Federation and FIBA, should investigate the abuse and cover-up documented in the McLaren report. The Ministry of Youth and Sports should form a government commission of inquiry to impartially investigate systemic sexual abuse in women’s basketball and other women’s sports in Mali. The ministry should also act to ensure that players do not face retaliation for filing complaints, and work with women’s rights and health care providers with expertise in sexual abuse and trauma to that survivors have access to quality, long-term support services.

“The lack of protection systems for FIBA ​​and the McLaren team put survivors and witnesses at great risk, and likely made possible the many intimidation and retaliation by federation leaders detailed by the report.” said Julie Ann Rivers-Cochran, executive director of The Army of Survivors. , an advocacy organization led by former athletes and survivors that works to end the systemic culture of sexual abuse in the world of sport. “FIBA has yet to apologize for failing to protect Malian players from sexual abuse for many years or for providing remedies, such as compensation, trauma support and playing opportunities for these brave young female athletes. “

The failures of the McLaren inquiry’s protective measures are symptomatic of fundamental flaws in FIBA’s governance, structure and responsibilities to basketball players. The report says that in 2012, basketball players who tried to form a union in Mali were threatened by officials that they would not be selected for the national team. In many countries, unions that represent athletes can file sexual assault complaints that protect them and allow them to safely testify.

“The success of global basketball depends on respecting and protecting the athletes, who include women and girls,” said Terri Jackson, Executive Director of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association. “As the governing body of world basketball, FIBA ​​is responsible for the justice, accountability and protection of players. FIBA must respect the right of players to organize without fear of discrimination, and ensure their safety and participation in decision-making at the highest level.

As a recent FIBA ​​statement revealed, FIBA ​​President Hamane Niang had the choice to return to his official duties despite the lack of an effective child protection mechanism during his tenure as President of the FIBA. Malian Basketball Federation from 1999 to 2007. The FIBA ​​report also concludes that there was no meaningful reporting mechanism for players to report sexual abuse, and that when they did, responsible officials covered it up, allowing the abuses to continue.

“The conclusion of the FIBA ​​report that the child protection and reporting mechanisms present within the Malian Basketball Federation are ‘totally insufficient’ means that survivors, victims of abuse and whistleblowers were not and still are not protected until now, ”said Andrea Florence, Acting Director of Sport & Rights Alliance. “This requires urgent corrective action from FIBA ​​and the government of Mali. “

The Sport & Rights Alliance calls for further actions and responses from FIBA, including:

  • Assurances of protection against reprisals from federation leaders implicated in sexual abuse and the physical safety of witnesses, survivors and their families;
  • Restoration of play and progression opportunities for all witnesses and survivors;
  • Psychological and trauma-informed counseling, health care, support and accompaniment to alleviate the new trauma faced by survivors and whistleblowers when providing evidence, including access to legal assistance;
  • Immediate remedy and accountability, including compensation, access to ongoing psychosocial support, reconciliation and a public apology for survivors and victims of abuse and their families;
  • Further investigation to rectify the limits of the McLaren investigation;
  • Systemic reforms to prevent and respond to cases of abuse in FIBA ​​governance structures and a comprehensive systemic review of child protection and reporting mechanisms in basketball federations around the world; and
  • Reassurance of respect for the right of players to form players’ associations and that no action is taken against them when they form collective bodies to protect and promote their interests.

In August, the Mali Women’s Under-19 team became the first African team to reach the final four in the FIBA ​​U19 Basketball World Cup.

“Despite the trauma caused by the exposure of systemic sexual abuse in their national basketball federation and the indictment of their head coach, the Mali women’s under-19 team has made history.” , Jackson said. “These courageous players deserve an apology, support and the opportunity to regain their joy in playing.”

To access free local support services and resources, please visit:
https://worldplayerscare.co/local-support

The Alliance Sport and Rights (SRA) partners understand Army of Survivors, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Football supporters Europe, Human Rights Watch, ILGA World (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), the International Trade Union Confederation, Transparency International Germany, and World Association of Players, UNI Global Union. As a global coalition of leading NGOs and trade unions, the SRA works together to ensure that sport organizations, governments and other relevant stakeholders create a world of sport that protects, respects and meets international standards. in human rights, labor rights, welfare and safeguarding, and the fight against corruption.

The National Association of Women Basketball Players (WNBPA) is the union of current professional female basketball players in the WNBA. The WNBPA is the premier union of professional female athletes. It was created in 1998 to protect the rights of players and help them realize their full potential on and off the pitch. The WNBPA handles the negotiation of collective agreements, filing grievances on their behalf, and advising players on post-WNBA career benefits and opportunities. The WNBPA also serves as a resource for current players, as they compete in international competitions during the offseason.

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