Ten international organizations have signed an open letter to the sponsors of the Ice Hockey World Championship 2014 in Belarus.
A Polish MEP Marek Migalski was the initiator of the action.
The organizations are calling on the championship’s sponsors - Skoda, Raiffeisen Bank, Infront Sports & Media and Tissot – to use their status and persuade the International Ice Hockey Federation to cancel its decision regarding the host of the 2014 World Championship. “It is assumed that the World Championship will be a festival of joy and solidarity. But how is that possible in a country, where the citizens are denied their basic rights and freedoms?”, - the letter says. The organizations, that have signed the letter, emphasize that there are at least 11 political prisoners in Belarusian prisons, the representatives of independent media and human rights activists undergo repressions and a moratorium on death penalty still has not been introduced.
As it is emphasize in the letter to the sponsors, in May 2013 another congress of the International Ice Hockey Federation will take place in Stockholm, so there still is a chance and time to deprive Belarus of the possibility to organize the World Championship and hold it in another country.
The open letter received support from Marek Migalski, an MEP (Poland); Free Belarus Now (Great Britain); Ostgruppen - Östgruppen – Swedish Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (Sweden); Association for Modernization (Czech Republic); Belarusian Tribunal (Netherlands), Civic Belarus (Czech Republic); CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation (SAR); Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights, Office of Belarusian Political Emigration (Belgium); Young Belarus in the European Union (Belgium), Civic and political representation of Belarus in Lithuania (Lithuania).
The text of the open letter:
“International Ice Hockey Federation chose Belarus for hosting the World Championship in 2014. There are no doubts that it is a great opportunity for the Belarusian nation to experience an even of such a scale. However one must not forget the nature of the country which is the Republic of Belarus. Aliaksandr Lukashenka has been ruling the country for many years – a dictator who openly ignores fundamental for the whole world principles of democracy and persecutes any freethinking, sentences his political opponents and sends them to prisons.
According to the data of international human rights organizations, there are still at least 11 political prisoners in Belarusian prisons, the representatives of independent media and human rights activists undergo repressions. Apart from that, Belarus is the only country in Europe, which still applies death penalty.
History has taught us a lesson – holding mass sports events in countries with dictatorial rule is an ideal chance to advocate the regime in power. In the past such significant event like the Olympic Games of World Championships in various kinds of sport were widely used for creating a positive image of the respective authoritarian regimes. Thus, we are convinced that if the World Championship 2014 takes place in Belarus, it may become an instrument for the Europe last dictator’s self-promotion. Every day of a World Championship in Belarus will be a day of creating a positive image of the ruler, who in fact neglects human rights and other values, which are fundamental in the world’s community.
No one doubts that your goal as sponsors would not imply participation in a propaganda show of Europe’s last dictator. Fortunately, there is still time to persuade the International Ice Hockey Federation to relocate the Championship to another country. The next congress of the IIHF, which will take place in Stockholm in May 2013, is a good opportunity to reconsider the decision as to the host of the 2014 World Championship.
It is assumed that the World Championship will be a festival of joy and solidarity. But how is that possible in a country, where the citizens are denied their basic rights and freedoms? The international community that respects democracy and human rights simply cannot allow leading companies to sponsor a sporting event, which will take place in the country of Europe’s last dictator. Due to the mentioned above we are calling on you, the 2014 World Championship sponsors, to use your status and persuade the International Ice Hockey Federation to refuse its decision. We appeal to you in order to by our joint effort not let the 2014 World Championship be held in Belarus and another country to be assigned as the host of the sporting event”.