AIt has been almost 180 days since Yves Jean-Bart was provisionally suspended by FIFA pending an investigation into allegations that the president of the Haitian Football Federation sexually abused young footballers at the country’s national training center.
Known as “Dadou”, Jean-Bart was re-elected unopposed for a sixth term in January despite FIFA statutes recommending that federation presidents serve a maximum of three terms. The Guardian’s stories for several months detailed allegations of abuse of women and girls and a climate of fear surrounding the most powerful figure in soccer in Haiti, claims that he had persistently and vehemently denied.
Just as he had when the first Guardian story, detailing allegations that he forced several Center Technique National players in Croix-des-Bouquets to have sex in the past five years, was published in April, in April, protested the 73-year-old. his innocence and described them as “clearly a maneuver to destabilize the FHF, the character of the president and his family.”
“These false accusations are as criminal as the practice of child sexual abuse,” the statement added. “The design of the detractors aims to take over the FHF without going through the electoral process. Let them say it loud and clear! “
In August, he was suspended for another 90 days, and FIFA’s final decision is still unclear. But on Friday, with just over 24 hours to go until the suspension period expired, FIFA’s ethics committee finally made its decision known. Jean-Bart is banned from all football-related activities for life and has been found guilty of abusing his position and sexually harassing and abusing several female players, including minors. He has been fined 1 million Swiss francs (£ 827,000).
The abuse allegations have now been validated after extensive investigation in Haiti and Europe.
The man who has controlled the sport on the Caribbean island since he was first elected in 2000 has already announced his intention to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) in Switzerland, with a statement from his spokesman describing the decision as “parody. of justice and purely political maneuvering ”. On Thursday, perhaps in an attempt to pre-empt the decision by the world soccer governing body, the Haitian justice system had acquitted Jean-Bart, a former doctor and later journalist who helped establish AS Tigresses, one of the first women’s teams. of Haiti, in 1970 – of any wrongdoing, with a statement from his spokesperson stating that “no alleged victim came forward publicly nor was the judicial system able to find potential victims after contacting numerous organizations that claimed to help them.”
In a country that Transparency International consistently ranks as one of the most corrupt in the world and where up to one in three women between the ages of 15 and 49 have suffered gender-based violence, it may be unlikely that they will be brought to justice in their homeland. .
But a high-profile rally outside the courthouse when Jean-Bart was summoned by local prosecutors in May, organized by local human rights organizations Kay Fanm, Solidarite Fanm Ayisyèn (Sofa), Kri Fanm Ayiti (Krifa) and Cabinet de Litigating Strategique des Droits Humains (Calsdh) and promoting the Creole motto, #PaFeSilans, (“Don’t shut up”) ensured that the story received widespread attention.
FIFA did not suspend Jean-Bart immediately after the first Guardian story. But after we reported that several alleged victims of sexual abuse by Jean-Bart had received death threats since the allegations were made against him, and Human Rights Watch intervened to urge FIFA to immediately suspend the president, they took action. “A gangster called us,” said one victim. “If we talk, they know where our uncles, aunts, cousins are.”
Since then, several more victims and witnesses have come forward to testify before the ethics committee, and one has even moved out of Haiti out of fear for his safety. In August, Antoine Doret, who spent 12 years working as the center’s technical director before leaving in 2014 and also testified to FIFA, became the first person to come forward when he claimed he witnessed Jean-Bart sexually abusing young people. . players under 18 years of age. “Dadou takes advantage of his poverty,” he said. “The girls and the families are so poor. Soccer is sometimes the only way to achieve something in your life ”.
Doret also named an employee of the center who allegedly helped facilitate the abuse of Jean-Bart as Nella Joseph. It has also been provisionally banned by FIFA but, like the accusations against manager Wilner Etienne, the proceedings are pending.
Despite its ban, an article on the German DW Sports website in October alleged that Jean-Bart was still involved in the management of the federation and that he continued to train young players at the national training center. Their reports were based on leaked voice messages and conversations with FHF officials.
“He came over and had a kind of meeting with the young players,” an anonymous official said. “The few employees who were there are close to him. They opened the door to let Dadou return several times. He even brought the girls food once. He was in his bedroom in the middle of the night. “
That claim was dismissed by Jean-Bart’s spokesperson as a “defamatory lie.”
With Jean-Bart now banned pending his appeal to Cas, Joseph Varieno Saint-Fleur, one of the federation’s vice-presidents, remains in temporary charge, but FIFA is expected to introduce a normalization committee. Monique André, the only female member of the federation’s executive committee, is expected to be a candidate to replace him. But after two decades that have been characterized by deception and scandal, at least now there is some hope for a better future for young footballers in Haiti.
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