European Olympic Committee Urged to Press Azerbaijan over Human Rights Abuses
A coalition of human rights groups and sports organizations has claimed that human rights abuses will overshadow the European Games to be hosted by Azerbaijan in June.
In a letter sent to Patrick Hickey, the President of the European Olympic Committees, the group pressed the Committees to speak out against the Azerbaijani government’s hostile actions towards critics and the lack of press freedom in the country.
The letter says that respect for human rights by host countries is a key principle enshrined in the Olympic Charter, which the European Games is meant to uphold.
The Sports and Rights Alliance, a newly formed group responsible for the letter, includes Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Transparency International Germany, and several prominent sports organizations.
Eduard Nazarski, the director of Amnesty International Netherlands, said: “The Azerbaijani government is investing billions of dollars and vast amounts of energy in the European Games and in other sports events while aggressively pursuing those who criticize or challenge the authorities.”
According to the Guardian, President Aliyev has poured more than US$ 9.7 billion into sports arenas and infrastructure in preparation for the Games, which will host 6,000 athletes participating in 20 different sporting events.
The Alliance urged the European Olympic Committees to use their position to press Azerbaijan to release several journalists and human rights activists, and amend laws that restrict the freedoms of NGOs, press outlets, and other independent groups.
Listed first among these “unjustly imprisoned” journalists and activists is Khadija Ismayilova, the OCCRP and Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty journalist who has been held in pre-trial detention in Azerbaijan since December.