Human rights pledge urged for future Olympic hosts

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 22, 2014 at 12:58 am •  Published: February 22, 2014

Citing widespread dismay with Russia's anti-gay laws, a coalition of more than 30 human rights and gay rights groups is calling on the International Olympic Committee to ensure that future Olympic host countries do not have discriminatory laws on their books.

The coalition — including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Campaign — made the demands in a joint letter to IOC President Thomas Bach as the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, neared their close. Activists in Russia and abroad have tried to use the games to draw attention to the Russian law banning so-called gay "propaganda," which they say deters a wide range of gay-rights activities.

In their letter to Bach, being released on Friday, the groups said that future contracts between the IOC and host cities should include specific human rights pledges and a commitment not to introduce laws or policies before the Olympics that would violate human rights.

"The contracts should include clear sanctions for failing to respect these commitments, up to and including a relocation of the games," the letter said.

The letter also urged the IOC to amend Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter to specify that the Olympic movement's condemnation of discrimination extends to discrimination based on sexual orientation and sexual identity.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams, addressing this matter while in Sochi, has said that the IOC charter covers all discrimination, including sexual orientation. But he said the proposed wording could be considered during upcoming IOC deliberations.

"We have a good constructive dialogue with Human Right Watch," Adams said Saturday. "We will read, digest and reflect on their suggestions before giving a considered response."

As to broader human rights questions, Adams has said these could be addressed as part of a review of the Olympic Charter and other regulations. The IOC will meet in a special session in December in Monaco to vote on proposed changes and recommendations as part of Bach's proposed blueprint for the future, called "Olympic Agenda 2020."

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