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19.01.2012

Move 2014 Ice Hockey World Cup out of Belarus!  ? 232

1:05, — Politics

Move 2014 Ice Hockey World Cup out of Belarus!

Free Belarus Now civil campaign has written an address to national ice hockey federations of all countries which are taking part in the World Championship-2014.

It is planned to hold this event in Belarus, but amid ongoing human rights violations in the country, democratic activists ask the participating countries to move the championship to a different state.

The letter was signed by activists, politicians and people of art. Late former president Vaclav Havel was an active supporter of this campaign and signed the previous letters calling upon moving the 2014 championship from Belarus.

The International Ice Hockey Federation is to hold its meeting in Helsinki in May 2012. Szymon Szemberg, Communications Director at the International Ice Hockey Federation, has informed the Civil campaign Free Belarus Now that at this meeting participants would have an opportunity to discuss appropriateness of choosing Belarus as the receiving side.

Iryna Bahdanava (Bogdanova), one of the founders of Free Belars Now civil campaign, stated: We urge all the countries taking part in the Ice Hockey World Cup 2014 to find another country for this event, or to boycott it completely. We ask you to look to your conscience. Is a country governed by a regime that kidnaps and tortures those that oppose it an appropriate place to hold the World Ice hockey Championship?

Mikalai Khalezin, a playwright, a founder and artistic director of Belarus Free Theatre, adds: The dictator uses ice hockey for his own political games, for his own political expediency. When leadership of the The International Ice Hockey Federation say that the IIHF adheres to strict neutrality in political, racial and religious spheres, I hope they understand that when ice hockey players would step onto the ice of Ice palaces of the dictatorship, the IIHF neutrality would be put at risk and compromised.

We received an answer to the previous letter sent to the Ice Hockey glory museum, and we were said that Lukashenkas T-shirt is no longer kept in the museum. And secondly: if we want to cancel the Ice Hockey Cup, we should address heads of federations. And this letter should be considered at the session of the Ice Hockey Federation in May. We have addressed this letter to the heads of federations and hope it would be considered. And today we know that this initiative is supported by many US and European politicians who will prepare their addresses to the IIHF.

The full text of the letter follows:

Australian Ice Hocey League Ltd

President: Don Rurak

Austrian Ice Hocey Association

President: Karl Safron

Royal Belgian Ice Hocey Faderation

President: Pascal Nuchelmans

Bosnia and Herzegovina Ice Hockey Federation

President: Haris Muhic

Bulgarian Ice Hockey Federation

President: Krasimir Krastev

Hockey Canada

President: Bob Nicholson

Chinese Ice Hockey Association

President: Wang Yitao

Croatian Ice Hockey Federation

President: Nikola Švigir

Czech Ice Hockey Association

President: Tomáš Král

Danmark Ishockey Union

President: Henrik Bach Nielsen

Estonian Ice Hockey Association

President: Priit Vilba

Finnish Ice Hockey Association

President: Kalervo Kummola

French Ice Hockey Federation

President: Luc Tardif

German Ice Hockey Federation

President: Uwe Harnos

Ice Hockey UK

President: Eamon Convery

Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association

President: Siu Yin Yip

Hungarian Ice Hockey Federation

President: Ferenc Studniczky

Ice Hockey Iceland

President: Vidar Gardarsson

Ice Hockey Association of India

President: K. L. Kumar

Irish Ice Hockey Association

President: William Fay

Ice Hockey Federation of Israel

President: Sergei Matin

Federation of Italian Ice Sports

President: Giancarlo Bolognini

Japan Ice Hockey Federation

President: Kenichi Chizuka

Kazakhstan Ice Hockey Federation

President: Askar Mamin

Korea Ice Hockey Association

President: Park Kap-Chul

Latvian Ice Hockey Federation

President: Kirovs Lipmans

Lithanian Ice Hockey Federation

President: Petras Nauseda

Luxembourg Ice Hockey Federation

President: Rene Ludovicy

Federation Deportiva de Mexico de Hockey sobre Hielo

President: Joaquin de la Garma

Mongolian Ice Hockey Federation

President: Sumiya Ganjargal

New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation

President: Grant Hay

Ice Hockey Association of the Netherlands

President: Joop Vullers

Norwegian Ice Hockey Federation

President: Ole-Jacob Libaek

Polish Ice Hockey Federation

President: Zdzislaw Ingielewicz

Romanian Ice Hockey Federation

President: Barna Tanczos

Ice Hockey Federation of Russia

President: Vladislav Tretiak

Serbian Ice Hockey Association

President: Nastas Andric

Slovak Ice Hockey Federation

President: Juraj Siroky

Ice Hockey Federation of Slovenia

President: Matjaž Rakovec

South African Ice Hockey Association

President: Shane Marsh

Federation Espanola Deportes De Hielo

President: Maria Teresa Samaranch

Swedish Ice Hocey Association

President: Christer Englund

Swiss Ice Hockey Association:

President: Philippe Gaydoul

Ice Hockey Association of Thailand

President: Phisan Xupravatti

Turkish Ice Hockey Federation

President: Akin Kilavuz

Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine

President: Anatoliy Brezvin

USA Hockey

President: Ron DeGregorio

Copied:

Martin Schulz, European Parliament President

Helle Thorning-Scmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark

Jerzy Buzek, Former European Parliament President

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy

Dick Durbin, US Senator

All MEPs

Leading World Media

13th January 2012

We write this appeal to you, unrelated though we are to the world of sport. We write to you not as leaders of the national federations of ice hockey, athletes or coaches but as fellow humans, all deserving of the same rights, respect and freedoms. We speak to you on behalf of the people of Belarus who suffer constant violations of their human rights, living under Europes last dictator.

Belarus, a small country with a population of nearly ten million, is located in the Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, people, for the most part, people know very little about this country. Those who do know it will often coin the phrase used most often to describe it in western press the last dictatorship in Europe.

For 17 years Belarus has been ruled by Alexander Lukashenko, whose autocratic and brutal rule has led to the suffering and suppression of thousands of Belarusian citizens who have tried to assert their basic human rights. Mr Lukashenko has held on to power through illegal means, falsifying election results and forcibly eliminating all political opposition.

Since 1997 no election result in Belarus has been recognized as free and fair by the international community. Many damming reports have been published by international observational missions to Belarus. In 1999/2000 five of Mr Lukashenkos political opponents were kidnapped. These men were later found dead in mysterious circumstances. The report to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe "Disappeared People in Belarus,"1 concluded that these deaths were connected to the countrys leadership, which had created Death squads to carry out politically motivated killings.

The last presidential elections held on December 19th 2010, culminated in mass arrests, with over 700 people being taken into KGB custody including seven of the nine opposition candidates. These elections were declared flawed by international monitors.2On that night and during following days the offices of many independent media outlets were raided and ransacked. Most members of the public swept up in these mass arrests served short administrative sentences of between 10 15 days but approximately 40 were charged under criminal articles and faced sentences of up to 15 years. 15 of these remain in prison and have spoken publicly at their trials of the torture they had suffered whilst in KGB custody. These allegations are supported by Amnesty International3.

The EU4, USA5 and Canada6 all imposed sanctions against the Belarusian regime in response to these severe human rights violations. These sanctions have been increased and strengthened as the human rights situation in Belarus deteriorates with further arrests and interrogations of members of the opposition and the continued detention of prisoners of conscience. Members of the public can be subject to searches of their home at any time and their freedoms are even further restricted with new laws, condemned by the UN,7 being passed restricting public gatherings and access to the internet8. The last source of free press following the forced closure of several independent newspapers.

Mr Lukashenko declares a great interest in ice hockey, but his focus is not solely or even mostly on the sport itself but on the financial gain that comes from it as an industry. Many skating rinks and ice arenas are being built across Belarus despite the relative poverty of its people; an average salary in Belarus is less that $200 per month. State controlled press has been running a nonstop campaign big ice hockey supports Alexander Lukashenko. Despite the dire situation of the Belarusian economy massive amounts of state funds have been invested in this campaign in an attempt to sway public opinion which is largely against this policy.

Historically, after the Soviet Empire collapsed, ice hockey has developed as a sport in democratic countries, displaying all the commendable qualities of team spirit, courage and honesty. We encourage you to follow the clear and pure principles displayed in the lyrics to Baron Pierre de Coubertis "Ode to Sport"

O Sport! You are nobility!

You overshadow with laurels only those who struggled to fight and win fairly, openly and unselfishly.

You are perfect.

You demand high morality, justice, moral purity, and integrity.

These principles have always been present in the sporting world, at the Olympics in 1968, during the national anthem, at the awards ceremony; athletes raised their black gloved hands to declare their support for all those who had suffered from racial segregation.

Today we ask you to raise a gloved hand and support the people of Belarus. Those ordinary people who love ice hockey no less than Mr Lukashenko but suffer so much at his hands.

This quote is from a letter that we received from Szymon Szemberg, Communications Director at The International Ice Hockey Federation.

The next congress will be in Helsinki, Finland in May, 2012. Any of the 70 IIHF members, including the IIHF Council (the IIHFs Executive Body) will have an opportunity to raise the issue of whether it is appropriate or no to play in Belarus. And, if the issue of Belarus 2014 will be raised, it will be up to the congress to make a decision.

We ask you to look to your conscience. Is a country governed by a regime that kidnaps and tortures those that oppose it an appropriate place to hold the World Ice hockey Championship? Is a country where every citizen is denied their basic human rights and prisoners of conscience are held in appalling conditions without access to lawyers or their families the place you want hold a global celebration of your sport?

Vaclav Havel joined us in our appeal to the International Ice Hockey Federation asking them to move the 2014 World Cup from Belarus.

Two days before he died, he also signed the Artist Manifesto for Belarus, which calls for an awakening with regard to the political situation in the country. It calls on world leaders to take action and declares a state of emergency in Belarus.

We ask you to propose that the Ice Hockey World Cup is moved out of Belarus and to a country that respects the human rights of its people. As human beings regardless of occupation we all share a responsibility to defend the human rights of those who are unable to defend themselves. Show the world that sport is not willing to be influenced by politics, no amount of lobbying by the Belarusian government will dissuade you from standing up for the human rights of all people.

If the International Ice Hockey Federation will not take a principled stand in support of human rights and move the world cup out of Belarus it is left to each of you to make a personal decision. We ask that you make a moral choice and boycott this event that is that supports the last dictatorship in Europe.

Morals and human rights apply to all areas of life, whether sport, art or politics.

Sincerely,

Irina Bogdanova, Founder of Human Rights campaign Free Belarus Now

Michael Cashman, Member of European Parliament, Great Britain

Tony Lloyd, MP, Head of OSCE Observation Mission in Belarus in 2010

Bruce Jackson, President of Project on Transitional Democracies

Natalia Kaliada, Founding Co-Artistic Director of Belarus Free Theatre

Nicolai Khalezin, Founding Artistic Director of Belarus Free Theatre

Irina Krasovskaya, President of We Remember Foundation

Tom Stoppard, playwright


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