ISSF expresses concerns for the escalation of dispute between Kuwaiti Government and the sport world

The International Shooting Sport Federation - ISSF - notes with greatest concern that ANOC President and long-time IOC member Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah (“Sheikh Ahmad”) reportedly received a six-month prison sentence from a court in his native Kuwait for allegedly insulting the judiciary.

These very disturbing news appear to be the next level of escalation of a dispute between the Kuwaiti Government and the sports world.

From ISSF perspective this dispute began when ISSF President Olegario Vazquez Raña prevailed against the Kuwaiti Minister of Sports and Youth, Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al-Homud Al-Sabah (“Sheikh Salman”), in the ISSF Presidential election in December 2014. In the following Sheikh Salman refused to initiate a change of Kuwaiti state laws to guarantee the autonomy of sport in Kuwait despite intensive attempts by the IOC to convince him to do so. As a consequence the IOC suspended the recognition of the Kuwaiti Olympic Committee because of undue governmental interference in sports in Kuwait. Several International Federation followed the step taken by the IOC and suspended their Kuwaiti members in order to convince the Kuwaiti government to take the legislative measures to guarantee the autonomy of the Olympic movement in Kuwait for the sake of the Kuwaiti Athletes. However, until today the Kuwaiti Government did not follow the suggestions by the IOC. Quite to the contrary, this dispute sadly now seems to have reached a new level of escalation.

The ISSF experienced already during Sheikh Salman’s campaign to become ISSF President in 2014 that he showed little sensitivity for a democratic process, the autonomy of sports and ethical behavior within an election process which was displayed by the following incidents which will be discussed and investigated by the ISSF Ethics Committee:

  • Prior to the election of the ISSF President in December 2014 the Public Authority for Youth and Sport of the State of Kuwait led by Sheikh Salman sent inter alia  a letter to the Minister of Youth and Sports of the Republic of South Africa. In this letter, the Kuwait Public Authority stated the following: “the friendly relationship between our two countries is unchanged by mutual cooperation in projects related to youth and sport” and hereafter asked for the “kind support for HE Sheikh/Salman Sabah Al-Homoud Al Sabah (sic), Minister of Information, Minister of State for Youth Affairs”.
  • Furthermore, prior to the election the Kuwait Shooting Federation (KSF) which had nominated Sheikh Salman as candidate and is apparently controlled by him, sent invitations to various ISSF member federations inviting them to the “H.H.The Amir of Kuwait 4th International Shooting Grand Prix” in Kuwait in January 2015. The KSF offered to provide airfare, accommodation, transportation, and participation fees – free of any charge – for an entire team. According to ISSF’s knowledge this had never happened before, let alone less than two months before a President’s election with a candidate nominated by the host making such offer.
  • Additionally, alleged members of Sheikh Salman’s campaign staff apparently approached ISSF member officials offering financial assistance, including the payment of airfare for the journey to the ISSF General Assembly 2014, if they were willing to support the Sheikh Salman with their vote.
  • There were also strong indications that the Sheikh paid the membership fees for several ISSF members which tellingly gave proxies to federations that were known for supporting Sheikh Salman’s candidature.

Despite all these more than questionable actions to influence the outcome of the election in December 2014, Mr Olegario Vazquez Raña prevailed in the election over Sheikh Salman.

However, instead of accepting the democratic decision of the ISSF members Sheikh Salman filed an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the election of Olegario Vazquez Raña. With his appeal the Sheikh inter alia submitted various identical written witness statements in his desperate attempt to build a case against his defeat. However, the decisive declaration within these witness statements turned out to be incorrect after questioning the witnesses directly at the two day hearing at CAS. Also for this reason CAS rejected the appeal by decision dated 16 November 2015.

The ISSF observed with greatest concern the further escalation of the senseless dispute between the Kuwaiti Government the IOC, its members and the ISSF.

The ISSF urges the Kuwaiti Government for the sake of the Olympic Movement in Kuwait and in particular the Kuwaiti athletes to stop its behavior contrary to the values according to the Olympic Charter triggered apparently also by personal interests and animosity immediately.

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