When can the IOC investigate National Olympic Committees?

Published 23 July 2019 By: Nikki Dryden

Olympic Rings

The case of Hakeem Al-Araibi, an international football player and refugee, freed1 from a Thai jail in early 2019, has a happy ending for Mr. Al-Araibi who is safely home in Australia. However, his arrest in Thailand and extradition request by Bahrain, a country he fled from after claiming he was tortured, is deeply connected to the politics of FIFA2 and the response3 from the organisation was a true test of their relatively new Human Rights Policy4.

In the authors opinion, to date, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has yet to act decisively, despite evidence that Mr. Al-Arabi’s case, and over a hundred more like it, are part of the Bahrain Olympic Committee’s pattern and practice of Olympic Charter violations that have warranted the suspension of similarly situated countries in the past.

Following FIFA’s lead, the IOC has made efforts to promote refugee5 and human rights. The announcement of an IOC Advisory Committee on Human Rights6, led by a former United Nations head of human rights, HRH Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, means the IOC wants to be taken seriously in this area.

The IOC has suspended several National Olympic Committees (NOCs) from the Olympic Movement who it deems lack autonomy from their state governments. Suspension has also been handed down to NOCs which violate human rights. But how and when does the IOC intervene in a country’s National Olympic Committee?

This article examines cases in which NOCs have been suspended by the IOC, including India, Kuwait and Kenya for their autonomy issues as well as Afghanistan and South Africa so human rights abuses. The article then examines the circumstances surrounding the Bahrain Olympic Committee and suggests that there is an arguable case based upon precedent that it too should be investigated by the IOC.

 

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Nikki Dryden

Nikki Dryden

Nikki is a two-time Olympic swimmer from Canada and a human-rights and immigration attorney in New York. She competed at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, with a top finish of 6th place, and covered the 2004 and 2008 Olympics for SwimNews Magazine. She has a BA in International Relations from Brown University and a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School.