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London 2012 Olympics: Will Human Rights Abusers be Invited?

By International Business TimesMarket OverviewJan 18, 2012 07:48AM ET
London 2012 Olympics: Will Human Rights Abusers be Invited?
By International Business Times   |  Jan 18, 2012 07:48AM ET
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Dictators from oppressive regimes across the world could be welcomed to Britain for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, leaving campaigners calling on the government to put human rights higher up the agenda at the games.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog) told International Business Times U.K. that it was inviting the head of state and head of government of every participating country to the opening ceremony of London 2012 on 27 July.

Governments and leaders from countries with some of the world's worst human rights records will attend the spectacle - unless the U.K. government steps in.

"The Olympic games is a fantastic celebration and an amazing event and it is no surprise that the world's leaders would want to attend and some of those at the opening ceremony will represent governments with poor human rights records," Niall Couper, Amnesty International spokesman, told IBTimes UK.

"While the focus will be on the sport, it would be hugely remiss of the British government not to use the opportunity to have a serious discussion on human rights abuses."

"Amnesty International would urge the likes of David Cameron and Boris Johnson to use this chance to the full and try to make a real difference to the lives of the millions of people that suffer at the hands of brutal regimes on a daily basis," said Couper.

The Home Office has the power to restrict entry to the U.K. for certain individuals but refused to confirm if some foreign despots on the invitation list would be banned.

IBTimes U.K. understands that there is an Olympics Accreditation Decision Committee within the Home Office that will consider travel restrictions. An official from the Foreign Office has an advisory seat on the committee.

One dictator who may find an opening ceremony invite dropping through his letterbox is Syrian despot President Bashar al-Assad, whose country will be fielding athletes.

Syria's hardline regime is murdering anti-government demonstrators. UN estimates have put the death toll from the unrest, which started in March 2011, at more than 5,000 as Assad's military uses violence and heavy weaponry to supress anti-Assad protests.

Syrians' hopes of being the next democracy to flower in the Arab Spring might be dampened if they turn on a television and see Assad beaming from the stands of the Olympic Stadium in Stratford's Olympic Village and shaking hands with organisers and officials as a guest of the British government.

Likewise it may be perceived as a two-fingered salute by Britain to oppressed peoples of Bahrain, China, North Korea, Iran, Yemen, Uzbekistan and other nations blighted by human rights abuses if their leaders are invited.

Labour MP and former Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane used a parliamentary debate to call on the government to ban Russia's president Vladimir Putin from the games, because of the country's record on rights abuses.

"Just as Mr Putin is not welcome on the streets of Moscow today, Britain should say that he is not welcome at the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics," MacShane told parliament.

He added: "Mr Putin will use the London Olympics and the Winter Olympics in two years as events for self-promotion."

MacShane highlighted examples of Russian abuse such as the assassination in London supposedly on Putin's orders of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who publicly spoke out against Putin, and the whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was imprisoned, tortured and then died in a Moscow prison after exposing fraud involving Russian officials.
London 2012 Olympics: Will Human Rights Abusers be Invited?

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London 2012 Olympics: Will Human Rights Abusers be Invited?

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