IOC Acceptance of Russian LGBT Law Sets Troubling Tone for Sochi Games

New York City – Human Rights First condemns the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) dismissal of concerns over Russia’s anti-“propaganda” law. Despite the Olympic Charter’s provisions against discrimination – including the recognition that “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement” – Jean-Claude Killy, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission, announced the commission’s decision that the controversial law does not violate the Olympic Charter.

“The Olympic committee’s position comes as violence targeting LGBT people  in Russia is on the rise in the hostile environment created by the anti-‘propaganda’ law,” said Human Rights First’s Innokenty Grekov. “The IOC has missed a key opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to human rights. They are leaving an entire class of Olympians and their supporters subject to prosecution and harassment just for being who they are. This shocking decision does not reflect the valid concerns of LGBT Russians living under the ominous shadows of this law.”

Human Rights First’s recent report Convenient Targets documents the impact the federal law the undefined “propaganda” of “nontraditional sexual relations” to minors on LGBT people. The law received near-unanimous support in the Russian State Duma and was signed into law by President Putin in June. Prior to the federal legislation, multiple regions of the Russian Federation had passed local laws prohibiting so-called “propaganda of homosexuality to minors” and instituted discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of LGBT individuals and organizations. In addition to the discriminatory laws, the Russian government has continued to deny freedom of assembly and association to gay rights activists, banning gay pride parades and events in multiple cities, and denying registration to groups seeking to confront homophobia and promote tolerance and nondiscrimination.

“The IOC is about more than sportsmanship and game regulation. It’s a powerful body that helps to set the tone of each Olympics. It is disappointing to see the IOC take Russia’s word without further examination and  look the other way as Russia’s LGBT communities plead for help,” said Grekov. “The United States Olympic Committee and the Olympic Committees of other countries should distance themselves from Killy’s remarks and ask the IOC to reconsider its position.”

Human Rights First’s recent report also documents how the Kremlin’s position on the “propaganda” law has changed over time. In February 2006 then-Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov (currently serving as a deputy speaker of the State Duma and the president of Russia’s Olympic Committee) submitted an official recall to a tabled antigay law, arguing that the bill contradicted Russia’s criminal code, which doesn’t allow the criminalization of propaganda for noncriminal behavior, that it contained “a row of mistakes and judicial-technical inexactitudes,” and relied on definitions that made it impossible to clearly define the body of the crime. A May 2004 rebuttal from Zhukov was even more forthcoming, pointing out that the bill “contradicts article 29 of the Russian Constitution, as well as articles 8, 10, and 14 of the European Convention on human rights.”


Published on September 26, 2013


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