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Olympics: Don't Skate Over Rights Violations

Abuses in China, Russia, Brazil Show Games Need Human Rights Standards

NEW YORK - The Olympic Movement urgently needs to focus on human rights reform,
Human Rights Watch said today as the 2010 Winter Olympics opened in

One ugly legacy of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games is the continued
imprisonment in China of those who protested forced evictions or called
for human rights improvements there.  The next Winter Games are
scheduled to take place in the Russian town of Sochi, where
preparations for the Olympics have already generated concerns about the
potential for rights violations linked to these preparations, Human
Rights Watch said.

In view of the murders of human rights defenders and journalists in
Russia in 2009, Human Rights Watch is particularly concerned about
possible rights violations ahead of the 2014 Winter Games.  Human
Rights Watch also issued a recent report documenting thousands of extrajudicial killings in Rio, host of the 2016 Summer Games.

"The bottom line is that successful Olympic Games cannot take place in
an environment where serious human rights abuses are occurring," said
Minky Worden, media director at Human Rights Watch.  "The International
Olympic Committee and corporate sponsors have a clear responsibility to
anticipate and address human rights abuses linked to the Olympics."

In 2007 and 2008, Human Rights Watch extensively documented human rights abuses linked to China's hosting of the 2008 Beijing Games,
including forced evictions, abuses of migrant workers, media
censorship, and a clampdown on civil society. Despite the Chinese
government's pledges to the International Olympic Committee that the
Games would bring rights improvements, these Olympics led to an overall
deterioration of human rights in China.

The rights abuses engendered by China's hosting of the 2008 Olympics,
as well as concerns about potential rights violations by future host
countries, including Russia,  led Human Rights Watch to submit a proposal for rights reform and monitoring to the International Olympic Committee. Human Rights Watch presented this proposal at the Olympic Congress  in Copenhagen in October 2009.

Human Rights Watch has outlined particular concerns about the upcoming
Sochi Games in letters to the International Olympic Committee,

  • Human Rights Watch's letter of May 7, 2009, on the problems of expropriation and worker grievances;
  • Human Rights Watch's letter of August 28, 2009,
    on the killings of journalists and rights defenders in Russia, and in
    particular in the Caucasus region, where the Sochi Games will take
  • Human Rights Watch's letter of October 1, 2009, providing an update on the topic of expropriations and information on potential health issues.

"The Olympic Charter describes Olympism as based on the ‘respect for
universal fundamental ethical principles,'" Worden said.  "The
International Olympic Committee needs to make sure that future host
countries do not violate the Olympic Charter by allowing rights abuses
to occur while preparing for the Games."


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Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.

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