Investigation confirms abuse of female basketball players in Mali

Basketball’s world governing body painted a damaging picture of the sexual abuse of female basketball players in the West African country of Mali in an investigation published Tuesday, but said it could not independently confirm reporting in The New York Times that the sport The U.S.’s top global official was aware of and largely ignored reports of sexual misconduct in their country of origin.

Hamane Niang temporarily stepped down as president of basketball’s world governing body, FIBA, in June, as prepared by the Times. publish a story There have been allegations of systemic sexual assault and abuse of dozens of female players in Mali, most of whom are teenagers, since at least the early 2000s.

Niang, 69, has not been charged with sexual assault. But her critics told The Times that she neglected the women’s attack for a dozen years between 1999 and 2011, when she served first as president of Mali’s basketball federation and then as the country’s sports minister.

And, those critics told The Times, with further inaction as president of FIBA, Niang continued to leave female players vulnerable to exploitation in her home country, a predominantly Muslim former French colony where women lived in daily life. experience extreme inequality.

At the time, Niang did not respond to a series of questions sent to FIBA ​​seeking their response. But he told The Times in an email that he was “never aware” of the sexual abuse allegations described in the article.

FIBA’s integrity officer, Canadian attorney Richard H. A subsequent investigation was carried out by McLaren, and published in one on Tuesday. 149 page report, said it was found that institutional abuse continues in Mali. But the investigation found “no direct evidence from anyone of President Niang’s knowledge of sexual assault.”

Niang issued a statement “This investigation is of paramount importance and I would like to express my personal and unconditional support to the victims. These crimes should be duly prosecuted by FIBA ​​through independent processes. Since the Integrity Officer denied my innocence,” he said on Tuesday. Confirmed, so I will now resume my official duties with FIBA.

The two players, who were teenagers at the time, speaking anonymously, told The Times that Niang was present in a nightclub in the capital of Mali to celebrate the victory in 2006 or 2007, when his close friend, Chik Oumar Sissoko, was present at a nightclub. The coaches, known as the Yankees, groped. dancing with their breasts and buttocks. The players told The Times that Niang looked together and laughed rather than interrupted.

Another former player, Aisata Tina Jibo, now 31, said Sissoko repeatedly made lewd sexual remarks that Niang did not heed the practices. Sissoko also sometimes had sex with players who were afraid of losing their places on the youth national team, as they became soft.

Asked if Niang knew about Sissoko’s behavior, Jibo told The Times, “Of course, he knew. Yankee was his best friend, they were hanging out together. That’s why Yankee was so powerful.” He had the support of the President.”

Frenchman Jose Ruiz, who coached the Mali women’s basketball team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said he replaced Sissoko for the 2013 African Championships after two players complained to the Mali sports ministry about Sissoko’s behavior. Ruiz did not criticize Niang, but said she and Sissoko were close and that mistreatment of female players was “a big problem”.

Niang denied to FIBA ​​investigators that he had ever been to nightclubs with the players or witnessed Sissoko’s obnoxious behavior. Investigators said none of the victims came forward to substantiate the allegations of groping.

The FIBA ​​investigation states that despite being unable to independently verify the charges leveled against Sissoko, “the hearing evidence provided by multiple witnesses is concerning.” He was suspended by FIBA ​​in June.

The FIBA ​​investigation strongly criticized the Mali Basketball Federation. The report states that “institutional acceptance of player abuse exists” within the federation and “neither action nor attempt has been made to identify or correct it.”

The report confirmed The Times’ account that 51-year-old Amadou Bamba sexually assaulted and abused several players as coach of the women’s youth national team and retaliated against some players who asked him to compete in certain competitions. Witnessed by choosing not to. He has since been arrested.

The FIBA ​​report said that the president of the Mali Basketball Federation, Harouna Maiga, lied to investigators about his knowledge of sexual abuse and attempted to obstruct the investigation. He was suspended by FIBA ​​in July.

The investigation also accused the Mali Basketball Federation of being “totally inadequate” in providing the necessary safeguards to protect young players “historically and at present”.

The report also said that the intimidation of witnesses and the victim caused trouble for the investigators. The report said that 22 potential witnesses refused to participate in the investigation. Travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic also barred investigators from traveling to Mali, leaving them to do most of the interviews virtually.

Niang’s critics on Tuesday said it was unimaginable that he, as head of the country’s basketball federation and its sports minister, did not know about widespread sexual abuse in Mali. Chic Camara, a reform activist who said he assisted with the FIBA ​​investigation, criticized what it described as outright lacking.

“They are well aware that there were abuses in Niang’s time,” Camara said. “As he said in his report, it is an institutional system. That system is not new; It’s been more than 20 years. Nobody did anything to change it, including Niang.”

Minky Worden, director of global initiatives for Human Rights Watch, which also investigated the sexual abuse of female basketball players in Mali, reiterated Tuesday that Niang knew or should have known about the abuse.

“Based on this report, he should not be in office for another day,” Worden said. “This is not the person who should be leading global basketball. His global role is built on the Mali Basketball Federation, which in a nearly 150-page report reveals that sexual abuse is rampant and not in place of any required statutory protections for children. “

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