Roberto Rivello: How the FIDE Ethics Commission works

by ChessBase
5/11/2007 – He is a judge udge with jurisdiction n criminal cases, and a Professor of International Law and International Organization at the University of Turin. Roberto Rivello is also the newly appointed Chairman of the FIDE Ethics Commission, which has to decide on the complaint against Nigel Short. We asked Roberto to fill us in on the inner workings of the Commission. Here is his statement.

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While we were looking up the background of the charges brought against Nigel Short to the FIDE Ethics Commission we contacted the Chairman of the Commission, Roberto Rivello. He is an old friend we know from the FIDE Executive Board meeting in Dresden and then, more importantly, from the Chess Olympiade in Turin, which he helped to organise (here's an article he wrote for us on the subject). We asked Roberto to fill us in on the inner workings of the Ethics Commission. After a few days and a few emailing problems we got the following interesting statement.

Taking Nigel to task? Not really. In the picture above Roberto Rivello and Nigel Short are chatting during the FIDE Executive Board meeting in Dresden, back in August 2005.

Dear ChessBase,

About the FIDE Ethics Commission, I will try to explain, in a few words, my work as a Chairman of this Commission. As you know, I was elected during the 2006 FIDE General Assembly in Turin and I did not have any previous experience in the FIDE world. Before my election I read the official documents presented by the former Chairmen of the EC during the various General Assemblies. I got the impression that the Commission had been really active only in the last years, deciding on some cases and imposing sanctions, even significant sanctions.

After my election, I started to care about how to organise the work of the EC. I asked FIDE Secretariat to send me the previous decisions and all possible information on pending cases and on the practice and the proceeding of the EC.

EC has to implement FIDE Code Ethics. The FIDE Code of Ethics lays down the possible relevant "violations", the "substance" of the cases, but covers the matter of the procedure of the Ethics Commission with only the following rules:

4.2 Breach of the regulations of this code by any person shall be reported to and decided by the FIDE Ethics Commission.

4.3 The proceedings shall be recorded in writing. Grounds must be given for any decisions taken and these must also be in writing.

That means that all the other procedural points has to be regulated through internal rules laid down by the Ethics Commission.

Probably the former EC Chairmen were not lawyers and did not consider this point as a very important one. I was informed that, in the past, the Chairman used to decide case by case the proceeding internal rules, without expressing them in an explicit form. In practice there were no written rules and no hearings. This was not so uncommon. The same happened in many other sporting Federations till recent years. Today is much less common: sport justice is becoming more and more important.

In any case, I am a jurist. I am Judge in Italy, with jurisdiction on criminal cases, I am Professor of International Law and International Organization at the University of Turin, I organize with UNICRI – a UN organ – a LL’M Master on International Criminal Law and International Criminal Justice. It is my work, and for me rules are very important: I believe it is not possible to take fair decisions without any previous proceeding rules, even in the sportive Justice.

Any organ, in particular the judicial organs of international institutions, has a power of self-regulation (see for example the case of the ICTY, International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia: the Tribunal laid down its proceeding rules), of course within the boundaries of its competence. Even the Ethics Commission has a power of "self-regulation" and can lay down some internal rules in procedural matters, within the limits of a full respect of the FIDE Handbook.

So for me it was necessary to work on some minimal "Procedural Rules of the Ethics Commission", covering just the most important points, before to deal with the concrete cases. I informed the other members of the Commission and the FIDE Presidential Board of my position. They agreed with me. So we started to work on the Internal Rules.

After pondering upon these problems, studying the matter and consulting the Statutes of some other Sportive Federations, especially the "Statute of the Bodies Working for the Settlement of Sports-related Disputes" of the International Olympic Committee, I prepared a draft. Together with the other members of the EC we discussed and improved the draft. This was an interesting, but not such an easy task.

In January 2007 I sent to the FIDE Presidential Board a final draft of the "Procedural Rules of the Ethics Commission". Laying down Procedural Rules is an internal power of the Ethics Commission. In any case this matter is so important that we feel like proposing to ask the FIDE Presidential Board and the FIDE President to take note of these Procedural Rules, or to actually approve them.

In February 2007 the FIDE Presidential Board and the FIDE President approved these Rules, which were published on the FIDE website. I enclose herewith a copy of them, and it would be important, I think, if you will publish them on the ChessBase news page [they are given below].

In my opinion this has been a fundamental step forward: now there is a Register of cases, now there are clear rules, rights and guarantees for the defendants, the possibility of a hearing and so on. But of course it is not to me to judge about our work.

In the meantime EC received an unprecedented number of complaints, some of them regarding very important cases.

According with art. 6 and art. 7 of the "Procedural Rules of the Ethics Commission" certain steps were to be taken to identify people involved with the complaints, the facts described in the complaints and the rules of the FIDE Code of Ethics allegedly violated. After that the EC Chairman has to inform the defendant parties of the existence of a pending case – this is a very important guarantee for them -, and to fix a term, normally twenty days, for the submission of memorials and documents, failing which no further documents will be accepted by the EC. This term may be prolonged, if requested.

In April 2007 I prepared all the necessary documents for all the pending cases and I asked the FIDE Secretariat to send them, using a form of communication which guarantees the correct delivery, knowing when and by who the communications will be received. Thirteen people were informed of the existence of a pending case in front of the EC. Some defendants have already presented testimonials and documents or request of time limits extension. In the next months EC will be able to decide on all the pending cases.

I am sure you could easily guess all the most important pending cases, and Nigel Short informed you about his case. Many of the complaints were published on some website: for instance the complaints concerning two very relevant cases, Moroccan Arbiters and the Elista World Championship. Anyway I can just confirm their existence.

About the Nigel Short case: there was a complaint against him, so he was informed by me of the pending case. In the document I sent him it is specified what are the facts allegedly committed by him and what are the alleged violations of the FIDE Code of Ethics. I fixed a term of twenty days for the submission of testimonials and documents. Nigel presented me a request for a delay of the time limit untill 15th June 2007. I decided his request was justified and I fixed as a new deadline 15th June 2007.

All EC decisions will be published, but of course at the end of the proceeding. If in some cases there will be a hearing it will be public. I have to decide all these cases, so at the present time I cannot express any evaluation about them. I just would like to assure you that EC is an independent organ, and we will examine and decide very seriously all the cases.

Roberto Rivello
Chairman of the FIDE Ethics Commission


1. Register of cases

All complaints and reports concerning violations of the FIDE Code of Ethics shall be addressed to the FIDE Ethics Commission (hereafter called the “EC”) through the FIDE Secretariat. The FIDE Secretariat will transmit a copy of them to the Chairman of the EC.

A Register of the cases of the EC is set up at the office of the FIDE Secretariat.

The Chairman of the EC will communicate to the FIDE Secretariat the name and the progressive number assigned to each case.

2. Language

The working language of the EC is English.

The EC shall, at the request of any party, authorize a language other than English to be used by the parties involved. In that occurrence, the EC may order any or all of the parties to bear all or part of the translation and interpreting costs.

The EC may order that all documents submitted in languages other than English shall be filed together with a certified translation in the language of the procedure.

3. Notifications and Communications

All notifications and communication that the EC intend for the parties shall be made through the FIDE Secretariat.

All communication that the parties intend for the EC shall be made through the FIDE Secretariat.

4. Representation and Assistance

The parties may be represented or assisted by persons of their choice. The names, addresses, telephone and facsimile numbers, e-mails addresses of the persons representing the parties shall be communicated to the FIDE Secretariat.

5. Intervention

If a FIDE Federation, a FIDE Organ or any other person has an interest in a case submitted to the competence of EC, it may submit to the EC memorials and documents.

6. Rights of the Parties

Each person charged with a violation of the FIDE Code of Ethics has the right to be informed in writing (whether by letter, e-mail or otherwise) of the pending case before the final decision of the EC and has the right to present to the EC memorials and documents in support of his/her/their position.

Each party has the right, within the limits provided by art. 8, to ask to appear in front of the EC in an oral hearing.

7. Submissions of Documents and Written Procedure

The Chairman of the EC will fix a term, normally at least twenty days, for the submission of memorials and documents, failing which no further documents will be accepted by the EC. This term may be prolonged, if requested. When this term has expired, the EC may decide upon the case.

Documents may be submitted even by e-mail.

The EC may acquire documents and statements, i.e. from FIDE organs, FIDE Federations, arbiters, players, organisers, tournament directors.

8. Hearing

The procedure before the EC comprises an oral hearing only if the EC deems it appropriate and necessary.

Each party is responsible for all the costs directly or indirectly associated with their presence.

If a party asks for a hearing and the EC deems it not necessary, the party insisting on having the hearing will be required to pay a fee as a contribution for FIDE expenses and for the expenses of the other parties, in the event he/she loses the case. An appropriate amount of money to cover these expenses must be posted with FIDE Secretariat prior to the hearing.

The Chairman of the EC shall issue directions relating to the hearing and, in particular, he shall set the hearing date.

The hearing shall be public, unless the EC decides otherwise.

The Chairman of the EC shall conduct the hearing and ensure that the statements made are concise and limited to the subject of the case.

The EC may exceptionally authorize the hearing of witnesses and experts, even via tele- or video-conference.

Minutes shall be made at each hearing.

9. Judgement

The deliberations of the EC shall be taken in private and remain secret.

All questions shall be decided by the majority of the members present.

The quorum for the judgment shall be of at least four members.

In the event of an equality of votes, the Chairman of the EC shall have the right to cast the decisive vote.

The judgment shall state in a written form the reasons on which it is based. It shall contain the names of the members of the EC who have taken part in the decision.

If the judgment does not represent in whole or in part the unanimous opinion of the members of the EC who heard the matter, any dissenting member shall be entitled to deliver a separate opinion.

A written copy of the judgment of the EC shall be delivered to each party (by letter, e-mail or otherwise) no later than twenty days after the judgement.

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