[Sports law] New publication: Remedy and redress for sport-related human rights abuses

Published 7 December 2022

@Shutterstock - Participation in sport has many benefits, but it can also cause, or be linked to harm and abuse.

In a special issue of the International Sports Law Journal, researcher Daniela Heerdt (Asser Institute and Centre for Sport and Human Rights) and co-author William Rook (Centre for Sport and Human Rights) bring together different perspectives on one of the most challenging issues in sport: remedy and redress for sport-related human rights abuses.

Participation in sport has many benefits, including the potential to advance human rights. Sport, however, can also cause, or be linked to harm and abuse. In their article ‘Remedy and redress for sport-related human rights abuses’, authors Heerdt and Rook focus on human rights issues linked to sports and their potential remedies. The article is published while a broad sport and human rights agenda is gathering momentum, with intense scrutiny of the human rights impacts of mega-sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

While these and other mega-sporting events have drawn the spotlight to infringements of labour rights for workers on the construction sites for sport infrastructure and in other sectors, the range of human rights issues linked to sport go much deeper and wider into the day-to-day fabric of sport. They involve, among others, cases of discrimination and racism, exploitation, displacement, violence and abuse. They affect athletes including child athletes, as well as communities, workers, families and fans living in and around countries that host sport events.

Significant obstacles
Access to remedy is a human right in itself. Every affected person has the right to effective remedy and redress, in the form of the actual process and the result. This is enshrined in a number of regional and international human rights treaties. However, in the sporting context, for many abuses there is either a lack of effective remedy mechanisms, or significant obstacles exist in accessing available mechanisms. As a result, affected persons are often left without any remedy and redress, and state and non-state actors responsible for sport-related harms are too often not held accountable.

According to authors Heerdt and Rook, research can help clarify good practises and lessons learned, to ensure that new initiatives and mechanisms are human rights-compliant and provide access to effective remedy. As senior researcher Antoine Duval (Asser Institute) points out in his contribution to the special issue of the International Sports Law Journal, ‘authorities in legal literature’ have helped to consolidate acceptance of the fact that standards of the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular article 6, apply to sports associations.

Strong case
Heerdt and Rook conclude that the size of the gaps in the existing remedy architecture make a strong case for new mechanisms to be piloted, including the development and application of business and human rights arbitration rules tailored to the world of sport. The special issue of the International Sports Law Journal contains ideas and practical recommendations for consolidating the acceptance of human rights standards in the world of sport, and for the development and reform of necessary remedy solutions. 

Read the full article

Heerdt, D., Rook, W. Remedy and redress for sport-related human rights abuses. Int Sports Law J 22, 85–92 (2022).

[Masterclass] Responding to human rights abuse in sport: Safe, effective and appropriate investigation (18 - 19 January 2023)
In recent years, the world of sport has seen a rise in reports of cases of emotional, psychological, physical, and sexual abuse. Sport has often struggled to respond in a safe, effective and appropriate way to these cases.  This has, at best, led to missed opportunities to improve and strengthen prevention mechanisms.  At worst, it has caused traumatisation and additional harm to those affected.

This Masterclass uses real life challenges from past investigations to provide insight into how (not) to respond to reports and allegations of sport-related cases of abuse. It will provide you with the tools and knowledge to respond to abuse cases while protecting those affected, complying with human rights, and upholding the integrity of sport. Read more.

Sign up now for this Masterclass and learn how to respond in a safe, appropriate, and effective way to cases of human rights abuse in sport.