FIFA has confirmed that it will appeal the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decision to overturn the lifetime ban of former president of the Haitian Football Federation, Yves Jean-Bart, due to “very serious procedural and substantive flaws”.
In November 2020 Jean-Bart was banned for life by the FIFA Ethics Committee for alleged harassment and sexual abuse against female footballers which were revealed following an investigation by The Guardian. However, he appealed to CAS who overturned the ban and “unanimously noted the lack of coherence and inaccuracies in the statements of victims and witnesses presented by FIFA.” The case was heard by an arbitral panel at the end of March last year.
Outlining the full reasoning for its verdict last month, CAS said that Jean-Bart had brought 66 witnesses to support his case, including 21 who were heard in person, writing: "These numerous and concordant oral and written testimonies established the nonexistence of sexual abuse allegedly committed on young players by Yves Jean-Bart."
CAS said that just one alleged victim had appeared at the hearing, while other witnesses put forward by FIFA "had only heard about sexual abuse of players, thus contradicting their initial written testimonies. None of the testimonies [...] were sufficiently precise and convincing to establish Yves Jean-Bart's guilt."
CAS also claimed that it had guaranteed the protection of witnesses "at all times," stating: "All witnesses who wished to do so were able to testify from a secure and secret location, without video, by encrypted telephone, with a voice modified by distortion, and in the presence of a trusted person from CAS."
However, global players' union FIFPRO and Human Rights Watch (HRW), both of which had helped FIFA gather evidence, contradicted CAS's claim that it had offered those measures to hide the identity of witnesses, alleging many of them were threatened into silence.
"There was no voice distortion at the CAS hearing, and survivors and potential witnesses were asked to testify without meaningful protection for their identities. Understandably, many did not agree," HRW said in a statement last month, in which it called on FIFA to appeal the decision.
A FIFA statement said “After having carefully analysed the CAS award, FIFA is concerned that this award contains a number of very serious procedural and substantive flaws, including the CAS panel’s failure to evaluate key pieces of evidence that were offered by FIFA. As a result, FIFA can confirm it has filed an appeal against the CAS award before the Swiss Federal Tribunal, requesting its annulment and referral back to CAS. FIFA remains strongly committed to protecting victims of sexual abuse and misconduct in football and will continue to apply ‘zero tolerance’ to any such acts perpetrated by persons falling under its jurisdiction.”
Following the CAS verdict Jean-Bart applied to be reinstated as Haitian Football Federation president but FIFA have rejected this.