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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 July 2007, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK



This is an edited version of the letter that Human Rights Watch sent to the Premier League questioning the fit and proper person test.

Below it is the reply from the Premier League's chief executive, Richard Scudamore.


July 30, 2007

Re: Purchase of Manchester City Football Club by Thaksin Shinawatra

Dear Mr Scudamore

Human Rights Watch is an independent, non-governmental human rights organization based in New York, with offices in many other cities, including London.

We write regarding your approval of the sale of Manchester City Football Club to Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Prime Minister of Thailand.

In light of the widespread, serious and systematic human rights abuses perpetrated in Thailand under Mr Thaksin's leadership, we are very concerned that you concluded that he is a 'fit and proper person' to purchase Manchester City Football Club.

We believe that an assessment of any prospective team owner should at least include an assessment of the individual's human rights record, his or her record on corporate responsibility, and whether there are credible allegations of corruption or other issues that might call into question whether the person is truly "fit and proper" for ownership.

Such criteria should examine the individual's record globally and not just in relation to UK laws. (We take no position on international ownership.)

In the case of Mr Thaksin, we have condemned the coup that ousted Mr Thaksin from power last September and continue to be critical of the military-backed government.

However, our research and that of other credible organizations shows that Mr Thaksin's time in office from 2001 to 2006 was characterized by numerous extrajudicial executions, 'disappearances,' illegal abductions, arbitrary detentions, torture and other mistreatment of persons in detention, and attacks on media freedoms.

The most disturbing period of Mr Thaksin's rule was his 'war on drugs,' in which Thai security forces routinely committed serious violations of human rights.

By his government's own count, more than 2,275 people were killed in the three months after the campaign was launched on 1 February 2003.

There is little doubt that Thailand was facing a boom in the use of methamphetamines at the time, but instead of responding with legal measures, Mr Thaksin unleashed his security forces in a violent campaign against alleged drug traffickers and sellers.

He issued cash incentives to police and local officials to remove thousands of drug suspects from government 'blacklists.'

Many on the blacklists, which were issued to local government and police, were killed. In a speech announcing the campaign, Mr Thaksin borrowed a quote from a former police chief: "There is nothing under the sun which the Thai police cannot do," Mr Thaksin said.

"Because drug traders are ruthless to our children, so being ruthless back to them is not a bad thing... It may be necessary to have casualties... If there are deaths among traders, it's normal."

The gravity of the situation prompted the US State Department to report in 2004 that Thailand's human rights record has 'worsened with regard to extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests'.

The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Asma Jahangir, expressed deep concern at the high number of deaths in the 'war on drugs.'

A similar alert was raised by the United Nations Human Rights Committee on July 28, 2005. A Human Rights Watch report, Not Enough Graves: The War on Drugs, HIV/AIDS, and Violations of Human Rights, documented shocking details of extrajudicial executions of drug suspects in Thailand.

Mr Thaksin was equally brutal in addressing the insurgency in Thailand's predominantly ethnic Malay Muslim southern border provinces.

His heavy-handed counterinsurgency policy led to the deaths of hundreds of ethnic Malay Muslims and injuries to many more.

A Human Rights Watch report, It Was Like Suddenly My Son No Longer Existed: Enforced Disappearances in Thailand's Southern Border Provinces, detailed 22 cases of unresolved 'disappearances' in which the evidence strongly indicated that the Thai military forces and police were responsible.

Amidst these widespread abuses, Mr Thaksin failed to address seriously the culture of impunity that prevailed in the country during his government.

In March 2004 Somchai Neelapaijit, chairman of Thailand's Muslim Lawyers Association and a prominent critic of government human rights abuses, was abducted from a busy street in Bangkok.

He has never been seen since and is presumed dead. Under strong public pressure, five police officers were belatedly arrested in connection with the abduction, but only one was convicted of the lesser charge of assault.

In his concluding remarks, the judge criticized deficiencies in the police investigation and work of the prosecutors.

Somchai's wife, Angkhana Neelapaijit, told Human Rights Watch that Mr Thaksin had informed her that her husband was taken to Ratchaburi province after being abducted.

It is unclear how Mr Thaksin learned of this information. Based on his record, Mr Thaksin does not appear to us to be 'fit and proper' under any reasonable definition of that term.

His past actions should lead to him being subjected to investigations by impartial police and prosecutors, not welcomed into the club of owners of the most popular football league in the world.

We understand that you may not follow the political or human rights situation in Thailand.

But in light of all the publicity about Mr Thaksin's record in office, a quick web search of 'Thaksin and human rights' or 'Thailand and human rights' would have uncovered a wealth of relevant information, including the Human Rights Watch reports noted in this letter.

We hope you would agree that the integrity of the Premier League depends in large part on the integrity of its owners.

The rules concerning who is 'fit and proper' should ensure that serious human rights abusers are not among the league's owners.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We would be happy to discuss this further at your convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Brad Adams

Asia Director, Human Rights Watch


Dear Mr Adams

Thank you for your letter of 30 July. I would like to reassure you that the Premier League takes its responsibilities surrounding the governance of its clubs very seriously and we are aware of the issues you raise.

It may help if I set out the regulatory framework within which we operate. In the first place we accept the primacy of UK and European law.

This determines who may, and who may not, legally reside in the UK, own and acquire assets and engage in commercial and other activities.

There are also significant protections in place to prevent money-laundering. These are all measures introduced and policed by the statutory authorities and, in the case of money laundering, by the banks and financial institutions which carry out the transactions.

Over and above those laws, we have our own Fit and Proper Persons Test. This goes beyond the legal requirements placed on companies operating in the UK but we see it as crucially important that the League and our own clubs show sound corporate governance with additional rules specific to football's own needs.

I enclose the relevant section from within our rules and the schedule of offences that it refers to.

You will see that it seeks to ensure that anyone convicted of any of the offences listed therein will not be permitted to become a director, or a shadow director, of a club.

The issues that you raise are of course extremely important, so much so that they fall to the UK Government, the statutory authorities and the European Union to consider and decide upon.

We would presume that you have presented any evidence that you believe is relevant to those authorities so that they can take them into account and act accordingly.

Should you have presented your evidence to the authorities we would be interested to know how they responded to you.

You can be assured that we will always operate within the law and will always take into account any evidence as verified by the appropriate legal process.

Kind regards,

Yours Sincerely

RICHARD SCUDAMORE

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