Match Fixing Must Become A Crime Throughout the EU

Labour Party

The European Parliament, led by my S&D colleagues Emine Bozkurt and Petra Kammerevert, has urged EU countries to explicitly ban match-fixing in their national criminal law.

It seems incredible, but in many countries throughout Europe, there are no explicit laws against match-fixing like the ones you find in the United Kingdom.

This comes off the back of the Europol investigation which revealed widespread fraud in sport, with 680 football matches across the world believed to have been affected by match fixing
MEPs also called on sports organisations to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on corruption, including a ban on participants betting on their own matches, an obligation to report match-fixing and adequate protections for whistleblowers.

The results of the Europol investigation have made it clear that match-fixing is not simply about cheating. It is about criminal organisations making and laundering money on a global scale through the online gambling market – as we have seen in Germany, Finland, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria.

These criminals know exactly where to go to find the least scrutiny and oversight from public authorities, and which countries still do not have match-fixing on their radar.

The European Parliament has made it clear that we cannot afford to wait until the Council of Europe’s match-fixing convention is signed at the end of 2014 before taking action. This would mean that we have to sit idly by while citizens are threatened and the integrity of sport is undermined – and while criminals have time to invest in new avenues for their criminal operations.

I along with my S&D colleagues, urge the European Commission has to speak out on what they will do today to help safeguard the integrity of sport.

The current scandal exposed by Europol documented a new level of corruption. The protection of sporting integrity can only be achieved through international collaboration.

Match-fixing, corruption and illegal gambling must be tackled consistently and across borders, because organised crime operates worldwide. Therefore member states have to explicitly include match-fixing in their national criminal law and include appropriate sanctions.

Furthermore, regulatory bodies must be set up to identify and combat illegal activities and corruption in sports.

Women of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Whose Justice?

Labour Party

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is today a flourishing European state, which looks set to secure its place as a member of the European Union in the next few years.  Its current image stands in stark contrast to that of the 1992 to 1995 period, which witnessed a bitter war and countless human rights violations. Among them were rapes, killings, forced displacement, and other crimes against humanity.  During the war, women comprised a large proportion of the total victims, with rape being actively used against them as a tool of war.  Estimates of the numbers of women raped range between 20,000 and 50,000, though the actual figure has proved difficult to determine.

Fourteen years on, and justice in the majority of cases has still not been served.  In an attempt to reverse this lack of progress, a unique event organised by Amnesty International and chaired by my fellow Socialists and Democrats Group member, Emine Bozkurt MEP, was held yesterday in the European Parliament.  Its aim was to provide an opportunity for Parliamentarians to hear first-hand the experiences of women who were directly affected by this issue, so that MEPs might find a way of moving things forward.

This initiative is not a new one.  In fact, Amnesty International has been working for six years on the current project and on helping victims of rape to fight for the justice they deserve.  In September it published a report entitled Whose Justice? Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Women Still Waiting, which highlights the on-going struggle women are experiencing in trying to obtain justice in BiH, and which seeks to offer some hopes for the future.

The report is shocking in parts.  It notes first of all that rape is a crime under international law and that it is the only crime of sexual violence recognised explicitly by the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).  Yet to date there have only been 18 rape convictions at the international level for the 1992 to 1995 period in BiH.  Even more disturbing is that many perpetrators have now found themselves holding high positions in the region, be it in municipalities, banks or schools, and victims are rarely in a position to stand up to them.

Achieving justice is not the only important consideration.  A significant issue identified by Amnesty and other NGOs is that the ICTY has by and large failed to address the long-term psychological, social and economic needs of the survivors of sexual violence.  Unlike at the International Criminal Court (ICC), where survivors have the right to be represented thoughout criminal trial proceedings, at the ICTY survivors can only participate if they themselves provide evidence at The Hague.  Understandably this can have a damaging impact upon victims, who risk their personal safety and expose themselves to added trauma in their determination to see their violators brought to justice.

The question, then, is what can be done in the light of this report?  One idea put forward by Amnesty is to encourage the Bosnian authorities, NGOs and victims to meet together, and to set up a state strategy on reparations for victims.  This is something the authorities have been avoiding for some time.  The European Parliament and other legislative bodies must push the issue up the agenda, and ensure that the Bosnian authorities face up to the needs of victims.  It has been 17 years since the start of the war in BiH, and it will be many more years before a reasonable number of convictions have been secured.  I believe that it is up to those who have the power, including myself, to speak up for the victims of rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to ensure that those responsible for grave crimes against humanity and war crimes are held to account for their actions.