Amnesty: The Olympic Committee is in denial about Russia’s anti-gay laws

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Amnesty International has criticised the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for expressing satisfaction that Russia’s anti-gay laws do not threaten the spirit of the Olympic Charter.

Yesterday, IOC Co-ordination Committee Chairman Jean-Claude Killy dismissed concerns over Russia’s gay “propaganda” legislation, saying: “As long as the Olympic Charter is respected, we are satisfied”.

He declared the “magnificent” Olympic venues in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi ready for the 2014 Winter Games.

Article 4 of the Charter states: “The practice of sport is a human right.  Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

On Friday, Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office director, said: “Russia’s law banning propaganda of ‘non-traditional sexual relations’ among minors is clearly discriminatory and in this it violates international law and runs counter to the Olympic Charter. Moreover, the introduction of the law creates an atmosphere in Russia that has already encouraged brutal crimes against people only because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.”

He added: “The fact that the IOC has satisfied itself with Russian officials’ assurances of non-discrimination is not enough. It disregards the fact that Russian law effectively prohibits people from public expression of ‘non-traditional’ sexual orientation. This is an affront to gay and lesbian athletes and spectators. It is also a disappointment to sports fans across the world who care about the Olympic ideal.”

Mr Nikitin concluded: “The IOC could have used its influence with the Russian authorities in the run-up to the Olympics to make sure that the Games are not tarnished by human rights abuses. Sadly, they appear to be missing this opportunity.”