The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has released a statement on Tuesday via its website regarding the illegal detention of Palestinian footballers, including Mahmoud Sarsak, and a letter has been sent to British Sports Minister Hugh Robertson and Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) President Michel Platini calling for Sarsak’s release.The release states that FIFA president Joseph Blatter has grave concerns over the illegal detention of Palestinian footballers and continues to state that it has received reports that:
‘in apparent violation of their integrity and human rights and without the apparent right of a due process (trial), several Palestine football players have allegedly been illegally detained by Israeli authorities.’
Furthermore FIFA notes that information it has received places emphasis on Mahmoud Sarsak, who was imprisoned by the State of Israel three years ago, and is held without charge.
Sarsak was detained leaving the Gaza Strip on route to Ramallah, in the West Bank, to represent the nominal Palestinian national team.
Sarsak began an open-ended hunger strike 87 days ago in protestation of his illegal detention, and subsequent reports from physicians have stated that due to dramatic weight loss and the stress placed on the body by the lack of nourishment has led to an immediate risk of Sarsak dying.
The State of Israel maintains a policy of detention without trial against Palestinians, often under the guise of administrative detention.
Administrative detention orders may be renewed every three months by the so-called Civil Administration, the branch of the Israeli military that administers the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. In the process lawyers for the Israeli military may state, to the military courts, that detention must continue due to ‘security concerns’ although all documents pertaining to the issue are sealed.
Therefore the detained person and their legal representation are impeded from challenging the order as they do not have access to allegations or evidence against them.
Indefinite detention is illegal under international law, such as International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Third & Fourth Geneva Conventions. Israel is a signatory to these conventions.
In related news, former football star Eric Cantona joined calls for the release of Sarsak. Cantona, a sporting icon following his career playing in both France and England, was amongst signatories to a letter sent to British Sports Minister Hugh Robertson and UEFA President Michel Platini.
The letter called for the release of Sarsouk and for Israel to be held to the same standards of the co-hosts of UEFA’s 2012 European Championships (Euro 2012), Poland and Ukraine.
The letter stated that, ”[i]t is time to end Israel’s impunity and to insist on the same standards of equality, justice and respect for international law that we demand of other states.’
The statement refers to the decision by British ministers to boycott Euro 2012 in protest of the detention of former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.
Tymoshenko was a leading politician in the Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of late 2004, early 2005. The non-violent movement followed 2004 elections that were not accepted by the Ukrainian public as free from corruption and tampering, and led to the ousting of opponent Viktor Yushchenko.
Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in imprisonment on abuse of office charges brought after Yushchenko won the 2010 presidential elections. The trial and sentence has been largely criticised as politically motivated.
Furthermore, Poland has come under fire from media outlets and is being monitored by UEFA after the British Broadcasting Corporation aired an investigative piece detailing racism in its football supporters community.
Although appearing to be a minority, the show has revealed footage of organized groups of fans making ‘monkey chants’ at black players, and chanting anti-semitic slogans against jews.
Other signatories to the letter include Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and political analyst Noam Chomsky and and film director Ken Loach.