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HRW: Premier League must consider Saudi’s human rights record when looking at Newcastle Utd bid

Salomon Rondon of Newcastle United celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool FC at St. James Park on 4 May 2019 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. [Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images]
Salomon Rondon of Newcastle United celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool FC at St. James Park on 4 May 2019 in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK [Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images]

The English Premier League should consider Saudi Arabia’s human rights record while it is assessing the kingdom’s bid to acquire Newcastle United FC, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement today.

The Premier League and the Football Association should consider adopting a comprehensive human rights policy in line with that put in place by FIFA in 2017, the statement continued.“The Premier League shouldn’t leave FIFA’s human rights policy to one side and ignore Saudi human rights abuses as it considers the sale of one of its clubs to the country’s sovereign wealth fund,” said Benjamin Ward, United Kingdom director at HRW. “Adopting a comprehensive human rights policy and including human rights as a criterion for evaluating potential buyers of football clubs would set a positive example.”

HRW continued: “On July 6, the United Kingdom introduced a new global human rights sanctions regime which included asset freezes and travel bans for 20 Saudi men connected to the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.”

“Those designated include Saud al-Qahtani, a former close adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is chairman of the Saudi Public Investment Fund.”The Saudi fund, it added, made its bid to acquire Newcastle United in January, but the Premier League has been considering the sale since then.

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The rights group highlighted how, under Bin Salman’s rule, Saudi began a series of arrest campaigns targeting independent clerics, public intellectuals and prominent women’s rights activists. “Women’s rights activists and others targeted have reported that the authorities tortured them in detention,” it explained.

The Premier League’s current handbook does not include human rights under its “owners and directors test”, the statement explained, and this has exposed the “inadequacies of the Premier League’s current arrangements”.

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Europe & RussiaHRWInternational OrganisationsMiddle EastNewsSaudi ArabiaUK
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