Post-Sochi Coalition Calls for Human Rights Pledge

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SOCHI, Russia — The recent Sochi Olympics have drawn a great deal of attention to Russia’s anti-gay laws, sparking many human rights groups to demand change. Many activists in the nation and internally have attempted to bring attention to Russia’s banning of gay “propaganda.”

A post-Sochi coalition of over 30 combined human rights groups and gay rights groups wrote a letter of demands to the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s president, Thomas Bach. The letter stipulated that in future contracts between the IOC and host cities, there should be human rights pledges and an actual commitment to not introduce or enact any laws that would violate human rights.

The letter itself says, “The contracts should include clear sanctions for failing to respect these commitments, up to and including a relocation of the games.” This kind of condition could revoke the ability for a country to host the Olympics if it implements any laws that violate human rights.

Leading up to the Sochi Games, Human Rights Watch reported that there were a number of human rights abuses. These included exploiting the individuals who worked on the Olympic venues in Sochi, the forced evictions of many families in order to build venues, as well as health hazards and the prevention of journalists from writing about these abuses.

The letter also addressed the negative attention Russia’s anti-gay laws have been receiving on the international stage. It said, “The worldwide wave of outrage spurred by Russia’s discriminatory anti-LGBT laws should be a warning – one that should not be repeated. Countries with laws designed to discriminate against or attack the dignity or human rights of any individual or group…should not be given the honor and privilege of hosting the Olympic Games.”

In regard to changes to the IOC charter, IOC Spokesman Mark Adams has said that the current chapter covers all issues of discrimination. However, human rights groups have urged the IOC to revise the charter to specifically include sexual orientation and sexual identity in its discussion of discrimination. Human rights groups have said that if the IOC put more of an emphasis on human rights in its charter, the committee could act as a “force for good.”

Adams has also said that human rights questions may be addressed in a review in December in Monaco. At the review, the IOC will vote on any proposed changes or recommendations that Bach has outlined in the “Olympic Agenda 2020.”

There has been a history of changes made by the IOC because of international pressure to do so. Minky Worden, the director of global initiatives for Human Rights Watch, said, “It has taken major global outrage, of the kind we’ve seen with Sochi, to spur changes in the Olympic movement.”

Worden also noted that the IOC had time to make a difference in the conditions in Russia, but, “They failed to do that. The moment has arrived when there needs to be institutional reform.”

It will be interesting to see whether or not any changes are made before the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro or if the post-Sochi coalition of human rights groups will have to wait until 2020 to see a change.

– Julie Guacci

Sources: US News World Report, Associated Press, ABC News
Photo: The Daily Beast

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