Several alleged victims of sexual abuse by Yves Jean-Bart, the president of the Haiti Football Federation (FHF), say they have received death threats since claims against him were reported.
The Guardian has also learned of new claims of alleged abuse from other alleged victims who have come forward. Authorities in Haiti have opened an investigation into the claims.
Jean-Bart, known as “Dadou”, has strenuously denied allegations reported by the Guardian last month that he coerced several players at the Centre Technique National in Croix-des-Bouquets into having sex within the last five years. He said the claims were part of a plot to remove him from the presidency of the FHF.
Several alleged victims say that they have been threatened after the accusations were published, with one former player who lives overseas saying she had to move house in a hurry because “he found me”.
“A gangster called us,” said another. “If we talk, they know where our uncles, aunts, cousins are.”
A former coach who worked at the centre said: “They force some players to say good things about the president because otherwise they will attack family members living in Haiti.”
One national team player has come forward since the allegations were published to accuse Jean-Bart of attempting to rape her and fathering children with some of her teammates.
“Dadou is a criminal,” she said. “I am one of his victims. I’m so scared. If he knows I talk to you … I lived a nightmare. It was a nightmare.”
The player added: “He tried to rape me when I was at the centre. He slept with some of my friends. He also has children with some of the girls. It’s very complicated for us there … And it’s not only about sexual abuse but also moral abuse, economic abuse, everything. That man, he ruined my life.”
It has also been alleged by several former players from the men’s senior team that Jean-Bart arranged for a 17-year-old whose mother worked at the centre to accompany him on a trip to Trinidad and Tobago to watch a match in 2008.
“In the centre, there were several people preparing meals, including a lady who had a daughter visiting her as soon as she left school,” said one of the players. “One day, Dadou laid eyes on this young lady. When we flew to Trinidad and Tobago, the daughter and her mother were among the delegation. It was a shock. He gave them visas and they stayed with him in a big four-star hotel while we were in a motel. A lot of the players suspected he was trying to sleep with her.”
A spokesman for the FHF described the allegations as “baseless”, adding that they were an attempt “to undermine our president, smear the Haitian Football Federation, and in the process degrade and demean our country. It’s shameful that the Guardian persists in repeating anonymous allegations seeking to impugn and assassinate the character of a man who has dedicated his life to helping Haiti’s young players succeed. Dr Jean-Bart and the federation look forward to being fully exonerated.”
Human rights groups in Haiti have called for Jean-Bart to be suspended while the case is investigated by La Brigade de Protection des Mineurs – a specialist arm of the Haitian police force that is funded by the United Nations and Unicef. Jean-Bart attended a meeting with the local district attorney last week and was asked to return in a fortnight. Supporters of the alleged victims demonstrated outside the meeting.
Several of the alleged victims are planning to pursue their own civil lawsuit against Jean-Bart through a Canadian law firm.
“It is necessary to shed light on this whole affair,” said Patrice Florvilus, a Haitian lawyer who is executive director of the human rights organisation Défense des Opprimées/Opprimés (Defenders of the Oppressed).
“Mr Jean-Bart must resign or be put on notice so that the procedure can take place, particularly for women who are very afraid. This is why we are implementing a whole legal strategy to allow the women to be able to testify.”
Jean-Bart has protested his innocence in media interviews, including an interview with the French agency AFP where he was questioned about a video that shows him with his hand on the shoulder of a young female player during a seven-minute interview published by the FHF in 2016. He said his touching of the girl was “an insignificant gesture done with fatherly affection”.
“Only an athlete can understand this,” he added.
Asked by the Haitian radio station Magik9 whether he had fathered children with former players at the centre, Jean-Bart replied: “I have the right not to answer.”
One of the alleged victims claimed that several girls at the centre and at AS Tigresses – the club the FHF president founded in 1972 – had given birth to his children. “Some of the mothers were minors,” she added.
A separate demonstration showing support for Jean-Bart was organised at the centre in Croix-des-Bouquets two days after the publication of the article by the Guardian. Pierre Richard Midy, an exiled Haitian journalist who has also investigated allegations of sexual abuse in his homeland, believes that the demonstration was another illustration of the president’s influence. “They mobilised the children – it shocked public opinion,” he said.
Fifa, football’s global governing body, has said that its ethics committee has appointed an “ad hoc panel” to investigate. Fifa’s ethics code allows it to impose provisional sanctions including suspensions of up to 90 days “to ensure that investigation proceedings are not interfered with or when a breach of this code appears to have been committed and a decision on the merits of the case may not be taken early enough”.
Minky Worden, who oversees Human Rights Watch’s work on sport and human rights globally, including entrenching human rights rules in sport and sport federations, has urged football’s governing body to suspend Jean-Bart immediately given the allegations that he has threatened alleged victims.
“Moving quickly to suspend Haiti’s federation president while these serious allegations are investigated would signal that Fifa intends to safeguard young athletes,” she said. “With threats already alleged to have been made, Fifa has a duty of care to limit the ability of those in positions of power to intimidate or silence accusers.”