Is the IOF governed by the Rule of Law?

On 1 July the IOF General Assembly will vote on the confirmation of the indefinite suspension of the Russian and Belorussian Orienteering Federations by the IOF Council.

In this suspension process, the IOF Council violated the Statutes, the Code of Ethics, and several core principles of due process required in civilized democratic environments. The IOF Ethics Panel helped this process by turning a blind eye to the violation of the Code of Ethics by the Council. This case gave a feeling of elements of historic lynching exercised in the US South and feudal despotism, but not of a democratic process of the civilized world.

Will the General Assembly approve the multiple, deliberate, and blatant violations of the Statutes and the Code of Ethics by the Council? Or will it stand up for the Rule of Law within the IOF?

Of course, it may well happen that the “It was not nice but necessary for justice” attitude will prevail. The same attitude that drove the supporters of lynchings in the US South and the hardcore Putinistas in their justification of the “special military operations”.

One may just hope that the IOF Member Federations do better and stand up for the Rule of Law on 1 July.

The suspensions

On 24 February Putin started a despicable war against Ukraine in violation of international laws and normal conduct amongst civilized societies.

On 28 February the IOF Council suspended indefinitely the Russian Federation and on 4 March the Belorussian Federation, though it had no right to do so according to the Statutes at the time (see Council Minutes 211). They could have imposed only temporary limitations until the General Assembly decided on the matter.

In addition, the IOF letter sent to the Russian Federation indicated that the Council also violated the IOF Code of Ethics by making a decision on “non-compliance with the IOF Code of Ethics”.

Only the IOF Ethics Panel has the right to make such a decision. The Statutes do not give any right to the Council to decide on that.

Below, I detail some of the most blatant violations of the IOF rules and general due process by the Council.

The Council violated the Statutes

The IOF Council violated the Statutes because only the Ethics Panel has the right to adjudicate upon the violations of the Code of Ethics. As detailed later in the report of the Ethics Panel, the Council did not refer the suspected violation to the Ethics Panel, but arbitrarily made a decision with the full awareness that it had no right to do so.

IOF Statutes 2020

It is unclear which version of the Statutes is in force right now because the Official Minutes of the Extraordinary General Assembly makes no sense regarding the vote on the new Statutes. Yet both the 2020 and 2022 versions of the Statutes are clear on the point that only the Ethics Panel has the right to pass decisions on the violation of the Code of Ethics.

The Council violated also the Code of Ethics

The Council not only violated the Statutes by making a decision regarding the Code of Ethics but blatantly ignored the procedural rules prescribed by the Code of Ethics.

It did not refer the matter to the Panel, there was no hearing, and the Russians and Belorussians were not represented and could not respond to any allegations. There was also no written decision detailing the facts and the reasons behind the decision that would detail how and with what the accused parties violated the Code of Ethics other than being Russian and Belorussian.

It is regretful to say that even Kangaroo courts tend to observe due process better than the IOF Council did in this matter.

The Ethics Panel ignored the violation of the Code of Ethics

To make matters worse regarding the legality of the IOF’s conduct, the Ethics Panel turned a blind eye to the Council’s violation of the Statutes and the Code of Ethics. According to the Panel’s report to the General Assembly, in mid-February the Panel clearly stated to the Council that the Panel should be involved if there is an alleged breach of the Code of Ethics, but did not find any issue when the Council passed a decision instead of referring it to the Panel.

Inexplicably, the Ethics Panel completely ignored the Council’s tramping on its right to be the sole adjudicator in matters of the Code of Ethics. When they could have interfered to restore the lawfulness of the process upon the referral of the Russian Federation, the Panel decided not to stand up for the Statutes and the Code of Ethics but acted as Brave Sir Robin.

Report of the Ethics Panel to the General Assembly (pp 117-118)

The Council had no right in February to suspend a member indefinitely

The Council had no right to suspend indefinitely the Russian and Belorussian Federations on 28 February and 4 March. Section 3.3.2 of the Statutes at the time was clear that the Council may only “impose temporary limitations”.

The Council’s claim in the Meeting Minutes and in the letter to the Russian Federation that “the IOF Council has today decided to immediately, and for an indefinite period, suspend your membership in the IOF in accordance with IOF Statutes §3.3.2” is a flagrant misstatement of Section 3.3.2 at the time.

IOF Statutes on 28 February ad 4 March

The Council also gave a factually highly incorrect and misleading report to the General Assembly on pages 156-157 of the Agenda and Documents. They quoted the Statutes amended on 25 March to justify their decisions of 28 February and 4 March. They also claimed that “The suspension was made in accordance with the IOF Statutes” – a clearly untrue statement considering the Statutes in force on the days of the decisions.

This feels like an utter disregard for basic legal principles past the era of feudal despotism and an unashamed disrespect of the legality of General Assembly documentation.

The Council could not name a specific act to punish

Nullum crimen sine lege is the legal principle in civilized societies that a person cannot or should not face criminal punishment except for an act that was criminalized by law before the act was performed. It also implies that without a specific act nobody could be punished.

The Council did not name a specific act why the Russians and Belorussians were punished with suspension for the simple reason that there was none. Their only specific crime was being Russian and Belorussian – a quintessentially racist approach.

The circumstantial hint that the Council’s decision on suspension happened “following the aggression shown by Russian government entities in Ukraine” is a smokescreen because the Russian Orienteering Federation is not a governmental entity. The ROF Statutes Section 2.6 clearly states that the Organisation (ROF) is not responsible for the obligations of the State and the State is not responsible for the obligations of the Organisation.

To make the overall process even more similar to feudal despotism, the lack of a specific act that was punished makes also the termination of the “indefinite suspension” an act of arbitrary clemency by the IOF Council.

The Russians and Belorussians shall be suspended at the Council’s pleasure. The “indefinite suspension” ends not by any rule or law – but when the Council feels so.

In addition, the IOF Code of Ethics is explicit that “Discrimination and harassment against others on grounds of […] political or religious conviction are not condoned in Orienteering.” So even supporters of Putin cannot be discriminated against within the IOF for simply holding certain political views.

An implication of this is that people who suggest that Russian and Belorussian athletes could participate in orienteering events if they openly take a stand against Putin are doing that in violation of the IOF Code of Ethics.

A principal decision for the IOF General Assembly

The process around the Council’s decisions to suspend indefinitely the Russian and Belorussian Federations made a mockery of the Rule of Law within the IOF. The number and weight of the violated IOF rules and principles of civilized legal processes are staggering.

Yet the pressure on IOF Member Federations will be immense to approve these decisions in the name of “justice”, as the law-abiding citizens were under immense pressure not to stand up for the Rule of Law during lynchings in the US South while blacks and Italians were abused and killed for no other reason than being black or Italian.

One may just hope that some IOF members will be brave enough to stand up for the Rule of Law within the IOF.

One thought on “Is the IOF governed by the Rule of Law?”

  1. My letter (below, May 2022)) to 40+ members of the Swedish federation. NOBODY answered!

    “Hello everybody!

    I am Nikolay Sytov. I live in Russia, etnic 100% Russian and I am a citizen of Russia.
    I was surprised, I was excluded by the leadership O-Ringen competition from the application for 2022. (I paid in 2019, the competition was canceled for 2 years). Without prior discussion, explanation, consultation, apology, only sending a «voucher».
    Oringen’s leadership (Claes Forsberg, CEO O-Ringen) refers to the rule “participation of Russian and Belarusian teams as well as participation of Russian and Belarusian associations is not allowed in Swedish orienteering competitions”.

    I declare responsibly that
    I AM NOT a member now (and last 6 month) of any Russian or Belarusian sports (orienteering and other) clubs, teams, associations, federations.
    I have never been a member of Russian trade unions, public organizations, army, secret services or parties. I do not work never in a government structures of Russia. I am self-employed worker (mapmaker and coursesetter for orienteering and organizer an unofficial orienteering starts/trainings in Moscow «Mosmeridian»)

    “Mosmeridian” is not a Russian team. This is only my personal brand.
    If it is important for you, you can classify it as team of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Botswana, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Egypt, China, Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Lesotho, India, Philippines, France, Germany, Bahamas, Madagascar, Canary Islands, Spain, Italy, Emirates, Maldives, Korea and other 100+ countries where I am has been for the last 15 years.
    You can classify it as the team of planet Mars, where I have not been, but my soul is already there (God bless Elon Musk)
    Legal right – everything that is not forbidden is allowed.
    If the rule “members of Russian teams are not allowed”, the ban applies only for members. I am not a member of any Russian teams. You MUST register me.
    Or you can make the new rule – “dogs, cats and all Russians are not allowed to our competitions”. Then yes, you can’t register me.

    This is not the “200 euro” question.
    This is not the question of participation in the start.
    Maybe I will not go to Sweden.
    Maybe I’ll die in The War.
    Maybe the Russian government will close the borders.
    Maybe the Russian government will arrest me.
    This is not a question about me.
    This is a question of honor, dignity of a person, his rights and freedom.
    Is Sweden a freedom country where all people are respected and condemned only for PERSONAL crimes, or now also a fascist country (as Russia now)?
    Why does a resident of Russia, where 150 years ago most of the population were slaves (my ancestors – yes), have to explain this to a residents of Sweden?
    If you cannot answer these questions, if “I’m only a soldier, follow orders”(c) who is your manager (officer, master?) who can answer them?

    This is not related to the subject matter, but if you are interested –
    About the “the situation in Ukraine”(c)
    This is not “the situation”(с). This is the WAR created by Putin’s fascist regime. War of conquest, imperialist against Ukraine. Personally, I openly declared it in Russia and in social networks (And I have the risk of going to a Russian prison for years and losing all the money for it every day). And I have never voted for Putin in all 20+ years.

    Sytov Nikolay
    Сытов Николай

    Странник по миру и по жизни.
    World traveler and strange in life”


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