Belarus’ human rights record raises concerns over 2019 European Games
Sports organisations, NGOs and trade unionists raised concerns in a letter
The inaugural European Games, which took place in Azerbaijan were dominated by questions about the country’s human-rights record. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images
A coalition of sports organisations, NGOs and trade unionists has raised concerns about the 2019 European Games in Minsk because of Belarus’s human-rights record – and called upon the European Olympic Committees (EOC) to speak out “with immediate effect”.
In a letter to the acting EOC president, Janez Kocijancic (Pat Hickey stepped aside from the role following his arrest in Rio), the Sports and Rights Alliance warned that Belarus failed to uphold basic standards on the right to protest, press freedom or workers’ rights – and reminded him that this was in stark contrast to the Olympic charter, which calls for the respect “for human dignity – and universal fundamental principles”.
The letter also called for independent outside monitors to receive and act on complaints of human-rights abuses, labour standards violations, and incidents of corruption linked to Games – and urged EOC to address their concerns as quickly as possible.
“The governance and responsibilities of international sport are receiving unprecedented global attention, and the international demand for urgent action will persist,” it added.
Sylvia Schenk, of Transparency International Germany, said that the EOCs were failing in their duty by not making a stand “on human rights, media freedom, labour standards, children’s rights, and anti-corruption”.
The inaugural European Games in Azerbaijan last year were dominated by questions about the country’s human-rights record, with the Guardian – along with a number of other media outlets and activists – barred from entering the country to cover the event.
Human rights activists, lawyers and journalists were also harassed, arrested and jailed in the run up to the Games.
“After the human rights debacle that ensued when Azerbaijan hosted the 2015 Baku Games, the European Olympic Committees need to put in place safeguards to ensure the Minsk Games are not a replay of the rights abuses that have characterised so many recent mega-sporting events,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch.