Move the Ice Hockey World Championship 2014 from Minsk

The International Ice Hockey Federation is currently holding its annual congress. We urge the Federation not to let Belarus’ ice hockey loving President Alexander Lukashenka arrange the Ice Hockey World Championship in Belarus in 2014, due to the unacceptable human rights situation in the country.

Since President Alexander Lukashenka tog office in Belarus 1994 the country has gone from constitutional democracy to authorian state. Lukashenka has continuously suppressed the political opposition and the civil society, and put pressure on the independent media in order to take the wind out of the democratic forces in the country.

“The situation in Belarus is characterised by the lack of respect for human rights and the silencing of critical voices. The International Ice Hockey Federation has an opportunity to stand up for human rights by not letting Belarus arrange the World Championships in 2014. We urge the Federation to act”, says Robert Hårdh, Civil Rights Defenders Executive Director.

The Presidential election in December 2010 and the authorities respons to the protests came as an unpleasant surprise for the European Union. More than 600 people were arrested in connection to the election, among them several Presidential candidates and journalists. Their sentences vary from administrative penalties to several years’ imprisonment. President Lukashenka won, not surprisingly, the fixed election.

“It is often argued that sport and politics should not be mixed. Nothing could be more wrong in this context. President Lukashenka will use the Championship for propaganda purposes, to calm the critique from the Belarusian citizens and the International community. The Championship will be used to legitimatize the regime”, says Robert Hårdh.

After years of cautious approachment between Belarus and the EU, the dictatorship showed its true colours in December 2010 and the EU had reason to re-evaluate the thawed relationship. Shortly after the election, the EU introduced travel sanctions for people within, or connected, the regime. This list has been expanded to include more people responsible for the oppression of the country’s citizens, opposition, independent media and the civil society. In April 2012 more than 200 Belarusians were banned from travelling within the EU-zone. In order to start a new dialogue the EU demands that Belarus releases political prisoners and takes other steps in the right direction.

Article 193
Civil society and organisations are a fundamental part of democracy. The right to organise yourself without interference from the state is a fundamental right, regardless of kind of organisation it is: athletic club, union, religious community, political party or human rights organisation. In Belarus organisations that pose a threat toward the regime are denied registration. According to Article 193 in the Belarusian criminal code it is also illegal to work in an organisation that is not registered. Such activities can lead to two years imprisonment. In combination with the categorical denial of registration of unwanted organisations, Article 193 poses a threat against the Freedom of Association.

In August 2011 one of Belarus most prominent human rights defenders, Ales Bialiatski, was arrested. The organisation he represents, Viasna, is denied registration and can therefore not work legally. Today Ales Bialiatski is serving a prison sentence of four and a half years. Viasnas Vice Chair, Valiantsin Stefanovich confirms that the human rights situation in Belarus is alarming:

“The situation in Belarus has gone from bad to worse. 2011 was the worst year so far. Never before has the country had so many political prisoners”, says Valiantsin Stefanovitj.

For more information, read the fact sheet (in Swedish) Democracy Misconduct: Belarus does not play by the rules, which we have handed over to the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation at a meeting earlier.

Categories: Statements.
Tags: Ales Bialiatski, Alexander Lukasjenka, and Ice Hockey World Championship.
Regions: Belarus and Sweden.