In September 2016, ECPM initiated dialogue with FIFA in reaction to the execution of a prisoner inside a football stadium in Iran. Little by little, contact has been established with what appears to be an atypical anti-death penalty actor but which is increasingly integrating promotion of human rights into its work.

On 30 September 2016, chilling news reached ECPM: a public execution organised at a football stadium in Neyriz, Iran. In reaction, a letter was sent to Mr Gianni Infantino, FIFA President, asking for steps to be taken against the Iranian Football Federation. Below are extracts from that letter:

We strongly condemn the barbaric public hanging of Saeed T, sentenced to death for murder and rape. At least one child apparently attended his execution, according to photographs taken at the time.

According to our partner Iran Human Rights, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the territories controlled by Isis are the only places in the world where sports stadia are used to organise public executions.

As the world’s leading sports organisation, FIFA has a duty to expressly react against the use of a stadium to apply this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment by the Iranian Government. As places dedicated to socialising and social integration, football stadia cannot be the theatre of abominable practices such as public hangings.

We request a firm response from your organisation.

Fatma Samoura, FIFA General Secretary, replied to ECPM on 6 December 2016. She explained that the Federation “had noted this incident with concern”. Above all, Ms Samoura wished to make it clear in the letter that “FIFA condemns any action of this kind which fundamentally violates the inherent dignity of all human beings”. She said that she was determined to raise the issue of public executions in future communication with the Iranian Football Federation. Finally, she recalled the introduction of a new article into the FIFA statutes:

Article 3:
FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights and it will do everything necessary to promote the protection of these rights.

The Meeting

Following these letters, FIFA invited ECPM to its headquarters in Zurich to discuss the commitments to be made in terms of human rights within the framework of international football. ECPM accepted this invitation with pleasure. On 27 April 2017, Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan met Mr Federico Addiechi, responsible for sustainable development and diversity, and Mr Andreas Graf from the human rights department.

Mr Chenuil-Hazan submitted several recommendations to FIFA, calling on it in the first instance to sanction the Iranian Football Federation in the event of further public executions in stadia. Other subjects relating to human rights were also the subject of recommendations such as the fight against the discrimination of women and the introduction of new criteria for respecting human rights in the organisation of the 2026 World Cup.

The FIFA representatives promised to continue dialogue with the Iranian Federation, even threatening it with sanctions in the event of any further violation of human rights connected to Iranian football. Concerning the organisation of future world cups, FIFA told ECPM that a consultation was underway about the integration of a “human rights clause” into the organisers’ selection process which would include independent research into the situation of candidate countries in terms of respect for fundamental rights.

It was therefore a fruitful meeting with numerous encouraging signs for the future of both football and the fight to promote human rights across the world.