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.
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.
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.
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.
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.