Telegraph, December 6, 2018
Attorney general leading Afghanistan sexual abuse investigation criticised for “poor record” over anti-corruption matters
A formal investigation was never initiated by the governing body and players were instead presented with a silencing contract, seen by this newspaper, that ordered they “maintain the secrets and news of the national team”
By Katie Whyatt
The Afghanistan attorney general leading the country’s investigation into the Afghanistan national team sexual abuse crisis was criticised in a report to the US Congress for his “poor record of prosecuting powerful and influential corrupt actors”, the Telegraph can reveal.
On Saturday, the Attorney General of Afghanistan, Muhammad Farid Hamidi, in a letter seen by this newspaper, wrote to the deputy attorney general in counter crimes and violence against women and children, imploring them to “identify the criminals and pass to the law. Once again, it is emphasized that, the case should be documented in 360 degrees and put criminals to sentence.”
A committee of four people has been assembled to investigate the claims.
Mohammad Farid Hamidi, Afghan attorney general, speaks during the inauguration ceremony of the information office of attorney in Kabul. (Photo: Mohamad Sangar/Pajhwok)
However, in a 267-page October 2018 report to the United States Congress signed off by John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) conclude that “the attorney general’s performance is deficient, his accomplishments are lacking, and he fails to cooperate with the U.S. Embassy on anticorruption matters.”
The damning document piles more pressure on Fifa to rigorously investigate claims that players on the Afghan Women’s national team were physically, sexually and mentally abused by coaches and officials at the Afghanistan Football Federation - including the president, Keramuddin Keram - and claims that the women were ignored by multiple governing bodies.
In a statement issued to the Telegraph on Wednesday, the AFF said it "vigorously rejects the false accusations recently made with regard to the women national team", adding that "should the AFF receive specific factual information and/or evidence, it will not hesitate to initiate further investigations immediately."
Two people connected with the national team - coach Kelly Lindsey and the former head of the Afghan women’s football department, Khalida Popal - have told this newspaper that they submitted a written report to the AFF detailing the abuse they allege took place at a training camp in Jordan last year but has, Lindsey claims, “been going on for a number of years”.
A formal investigation was never initiated by the governing body and players were instead presented with a silencing contract, seen by this newspaper, that ordered they “maintain the secrets and news of the national team”. The Asian Football Confederation, to whom Popal turned next, never responded.
Speaking to Telegraph Sport, Lindsey implored Fifa “to do their due diligence and take their proper steps”, and said “it’s really important for the world to ask a lot of questions of Fifa” should football’s world governing body fail to do so.
The findings of the SIGAR’s 41st quarterly report on reconstruction in Afghanistan already cast doubts on the rigour and balance of any investigation the AGO undertake.
“Additionally, the attorney general has failed to respond to repeated DOJ and U.S. Embassy appeals to prosecute stalled corruption cases,” reads the report, available to view online.
The report adds: “DOJ said that the attorney general has misled U.S. officials on the progress of anticorruption reform efforts”. These include failing to provide proof to verify arrests and convictions.
Of equal concern is that the Attorney General’s office has demonstrated “resistance to implementing the State-funded Case Management System”, an online database that tracks the status of criminal cases in Afghanistan. The DOJ believes that the motive for the attorney general’s resistance to implementing CMS is “a concern that more transparency will shine a light on his unproductive, corrupt, and patronage-laden office”.
Consequently, the DOG “views the situation in Afghanistan as ‘consistent with a largely lawless, weak, and dysfunctional government’ with many corruption cases languishing due to the lack of political will— rather than capacity—of the Afghan government.”
The latest available data - from April to June 2018 - indicates there was no significant progress in the major corruption cases being tracked by the U.S. Embassy, reports the DOJ.
“It’s really important for other global football and sports governing bodies to have this discussion, because it’s not just in Afghanistan,” Lindsay said of the sexual abuse on Tuesday.
“I just think that this topic gets brushed under the rug because sports and human rights don’t quite align yet. It’s hard for a human rights organisation to have control and power and legitimacy over an international sports governing body.
“There’s not enough representation of human rights in sports to give these women an outlet in their country to speak about. That happened to us - there was nowhere to go. Nobody listened. AFF didn’t listen, AFC didn’t listen, Fifa didn’t listen. It took us pushing and pushing and pushing to get somebody to listen.
“If I could sum it up, the global response from anyone that we spoke about this was: ‘Of course that happens.’ That’s was not a written response - it was not sent back to us in any formal way - but that was the general feeling. ‘Of course that happens, so what do you want us to do about it? In a country like that, that happens.’ But that’s wrong.
“If we didn’t keep pushing, I don’t know if they’d have taken it seriously. It would have been easy for them to brush it under the rug. It took us chasing to get someone to listen.
“Until we find the leadership that can actually hold these sports governing bodies in check, I feel like this will go on.”
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