International campaign: Don't play with the dictator!
International NGOs from Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland, including Norwegian Helsinki Committee, launched a joint campaign for the removal of the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship from Belarus due to the country’s poor human rights record.
Tuesday, 17 April 2012, by HRH Olso, based on Norwegian Helsinki Committee information
In 2009 the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) decided that the 2014 IIHF World Championship would be held in Belarus. Today Belarus finds itself in the most alarming human rights crisis since the country became an independent state in 1991. The human rights situation in the country has never been worse and continues to deteriorate.
Overview of human rights situation in Belarus
Notwithstanding the release of Andrei Sannikau, a former presidential candidate, and Dzmitry Bandarenka, his authorized representative, on 14 and 15 April 2012 respectively, at least 13 political prisoners still remain behind bars, having been sentenced to prison terms of 2 up to 8 years, Belarusian human rights organisations inform. There are reports that some of the prisoners have been tortured and ill-treated. Belarus remains the only country in Europe that uses the death penalty. According to human rights groups, about 400 people have been executed in Belarus since 1991. In March 2012 two men, whose trial failed to meet international fair trial standards and who were allegedly tortured in order to obtain a confession, have been executed. The human rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association are violated in Belarus every day. The Belarusian KGB and police frequently detain and interrogate opposition activists, journalists and human rights defenders, search their apartments and offices. There are several cases of political parties and NGOs being closed or denied registration.
The international NGOs are calling on the IIHF and the representatives of the national IIHF member organisations to suspend the plan to hold the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Belarus. According to the aims of the joint NGO campaign, the 2014 IIHF World Championship should only take place in Belarus after the government of Belarus has fulfilled a number of human rights demands, amongst others the release of all political prisoners, a moratorium on the death penalty and an end of the persecution, harassment and intimidation of dissidents. “Holding the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Belarus would support and legitimatise the regime which violates the human rights of the people of Belarus in an alarming way", says an online petition which was published on the campaign website www.minsk2014.no. The joint campaign was initiated by Civic Belarus, Human Rights in Belarus, Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Norwegian P.E.N., Östgruppen – Swedish Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, People in Need and People in Peril.
Support from EU Parliament members
“I am very pleased by the fact that further initiatives are taken against holding the 2014 Ice Hockey World Cup in Belarus”, said Marek Migalski, EU parliament member from Poland. Migalski, together with Peter Šťastný, another MP of the European Parliament, has initiated an international petition, which can be found at change.org. In February Migalski also initiated a Polish campaign “Let’s leave the dictator on the ice”. The dyktatornalodzie.pl website was created, which contained an online petition. As a part of this campaign, Mr Migalski asked Polish politicians, sportspeople and artists to support the initiative. As a result, last month the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on the International Ice Hockey Federation to reconsider the decision on the host country of the Championship 2014.
Further information on the campaign: www.minsk2014.no
HRH Olso, based on Norwegian Helsinki Committee information