FIFA details Haiti’s Jean-Bart sexual abuse cases

FIFA released details Wednesday of its investigation into systematic sexual abuse of female soccer players in Haiti, saying there were 14 alleged victims of the national federation’s president.

The FIFA ethics committee said Yves Jean-Bart, the president of Haiti’s soccer federation for 20 years, allegedly raped girls as young as 14 and took “habitual mistresses” among players. The details were included in a newly published verdict that explained why Jean-Bart was banned from soccer for life in November.

The 45-page document said, “many of the girls from very poor backgrounds became known as his ‘restaveks,’ a Haitian term for a child slave.”

One 14-year-old player allegedly became pregnant by Jean-Bart and was taken by soccer federation officials to have an abortion.

“Mr Jean-Bart’s behaviour is simply inexcusable, a disgrace for any football official,” FIFA’s ethics judges concluded. “The pain and suffering he has caused his various victims of sexual harassment and abuse cannot even be fully comprehended.”

FIFA received evidence from investigations by the global soccer players’ union FIFPro and Human Rights Watch.

They identified 34 “possible victims of sexual abuse and 10 potential perpetrators, including 14 names of potential victims of Mr Jean-Bart,” the report said. It cited intimidation of witnesses and the “authoritarian and economic power that Mr Jean-Bart appears to have in Haiti.”

Witnesses said Jean-Bart would give gifts of underwear to teenage girls, including minors, when he began to build abusive relationships, according to the FIFA document.

A therapist working with Human Rights Watch reported: “the majority of the victims/witnesses are still working on regaining a sense of psychological safety and … have not fully processed their traumas.”

Jean-Bart has denied the allegations, which were first revealed by British newspaper The Guardian in April. He said he will challenge the FIFA ban, and a fine of 1 million Swiss francs ($1.13 million), at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

FIFA’s ethics investigators have also opened cases against other Haitian soccer federation officials alleged to have committed or enabled the sexual abuse of players.

The abuse is said to have happened at the country’s national training centre at Croix-des-Bouquets, which FIFA helped fund. It was known as “The Ranch.”

Jean-Bart led the Haiti federation since 2000 and sat on several FIFA committees, including the women’s soccer panel from 2002-05.

He continued to be a member of the FIFA committee organizing the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia after the sexual abuse allegedly started in 2014.

At his FIFA hearing, held by video link in November, Jean-Bart’s defence included the claim that witness testimonies “are similar, almost identical, and are lies.”

“Mr Jean-Bart could not have raped or engaged in sexual intercourse with anybody since he was not virile,” his lawyers said.

They also claimed the success of Haiti women’s national teams “could have never been reached if the sexual abuse or harassment alleged (by FIFA investigators) existed.”

The FIFA panel of three judges accepted the allegations, saying: “The abuse was perpetrated at various locations and by different persons within the (Haiti soccer federation), occasionally resulting in rape and even pregnancies and abortions.”

Credit: Loop Cayman

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