Ice Hockey World Championship 2021 in Belarus: joint statement by human rights organizations

Human Constanta
11 November 2020

Human rights violations continue in Belarus: 18,000 people were detained for expressing opinions and participating in peaceful gatherings between August and 9 November 2020. From the beginning of the presidential election campaign to 4 November, at least 4,600 people were brought to administrative responsibility for political reasons. At least 850 people have become suspects in criminal cases for political reasons, 120 of whom are recognised as political prisoners.

Law enforcement agencies, in violation of the principle of proportionality, regularly use special means without cause, such as rubber bullets, stun grenades, water cannons filled with painted water, and pepper and tear gas. At the same time, there is absolute impunity for law enforcement agencies. No cases of torture or other human rights violations have been initiated by the prosecutor’s office or the investigating authorities.

Freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly are massively suppressed, dissenters are persecuted. The severity of the situation is demonstrated by the findings of the OSCE Moscow Mechanism Rapporteur’s Report.

All this is accompanied by massive violations of the rights of athletes, coaches, and sports functionaries, including threats not to extend contracts, contracts terminated, and being deprived of the right to rent training facilities. More than a dozen athletes have already been subjected to administrative arrests and harassment, with many others forced to leave the country.

Sport clubs receive fines and disqualifications for expressing solidarity, sports events are held without spectators. According to the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, at least 67 cases of athletes’ dismissal, pressure, and detention from 13 sports are known to date. More than 1,000 sportsmen and workers of the branch signed an open letter with demands to the authorities to recognise the elections null and void and to stop the violence. 

We remind you that оn the eve of the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Championship in Belarus, dozens of civil society and opposition movement representatives were persecuted, arbitrarily arrested, and imprisoned, which led to condemnation from the European Union and international non-governmental organisations. We do not rule out the possibility that in the event of the World Ice Hockey Championship 2021 taking place in Belarus, the situation could be repeated, but on a much larger scale, which will undoubtedly affect the reputation of the International Ice Hockey Federation. 

At the moment, the World Ice Hockey Championship in Division ‘A’ is planned from 21 May to 6 June 2021 in Latvia and Belarus. However, we believe that it is impossible to hold the planned event in Belarus until mass and systematic violations of fundamental human rights stop, political prisoners and all persons who have been arbitrarily detained and are now in custody are released, and independent investigations of all cases of torture and death connected with protests are conducted.

  • Human Constanta (Belarus)
  • Belarusian Documentation Center (Belarus)
  • Belarusian Helsinki Committee
  • Human Rights Center “Viasna” (Belarus)
  • Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
  • FORB Initiative (Belarus)
  • Lawtrend (Belarus)
  • Legal Initiative (Belarus)
  • Belarusian PEN Centre
  • Article 19 
  • Human Rights Monitoring Institute (Lithuania) 
  • Public Association «Dignity» (Kazakhstan)
  • Truth Hounds (Ukraine)
  • Libereco Partnership for Human Rights (Germany)
  • UCSJ: Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (USA)
  • Общественное объединение “Кадiр-касиет” (Kazakhstan)
  • Public Verdict Foundation/Фонд «Общественный вердикт» (Russia)
  • Netherlands Helsinki Committee
  • Human Rights movement “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan” (Kyrgyzstan)
  • DRA (Germany)
  • Index on Censorship (United Kingdom)
  • The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
  • Legal Policy Research Center (LPRC) (Kazakhstan)
  • Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law
  • Swedish OSCE-network
  • World Organisation Against Torture, OMCT (Belgium)
  • Center for Participation and Development
  • The Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
  • Crude Accountability
  • Human Rights Center ZMINA
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