Open Letter to Skoda, Raiffeisen Bank, Infront Sports & Media and Tissot, the Sponsors of the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship in Belarus:
The International Ice Hockey Federation voted for Belarus to host the 2014 World Championship. This event could be no doubt a great opportunity for the Belarusian people to experience World Class Ice Hockey very closely. However, one has to keep in mind, which kind of country the Republic of Belarus really is. For decades it is led by Aleksander Lukashenko, a dictator, who openly ignores universal fundamental principles of democracy, persecutes any freethinking, prosecutes political opponents and throws them into prison.
According to reports of international human rights organizations there are at least 11 political prisoners imprisoned in Belarus, while representatives of independent mass media and human rights defenders are victimized. In addition, Belarus is the only country in Europe which still executes the death penalty.
History teaches us that great sport events in countries with a dictatorial government are a great opportunity for propaganda of the ruling regimes. In the past great events such as Olympic Games or World Championships of various sports have been widely used to shed a good light on the respective authoritarian government. We are therefore convinced that the hosting of the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship in Belarus will become a tool of propaganda of Europe’s last dictator. Every day of a Championship in Belarus will be a day of creating a more positive image of a ruler, who exceedingly neglects human rights, democracy and related values, which are fundamental for the World community.
We sincerely doubt that it has been your goal as a sponsor to become a part of such a “propaganda show” of Europe ́s last dictatorship. Luckily, there is still some time to urge the IIHF to remove the World Championship to another country. The next meeting of the IIHF General Congress in Stockholm in May 2013 will be a good opportunity to revise the decision on the host of the 2014 World Championship.
The World Championship deserves to be a festival of happiness and solidarity. How can that happen in a country, where citizens do not enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms? A world which values democracy and human rights simply cannot afford that its leading companies sponsor such an important sports event in Europe’s last dictatorship. We therefore appeal to you to make good use of your influence as a sponsor of the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship and to urge the IIHF to abandon their decision to let Belarus host the World Championship and to remove it to another country.
- Marek Migalski, Member of the European Parliament (Poland)
- Association for Modernization (Czech Republic)
- Belarusian Tribunal (Netherlands)
- Civic Belarus (Czech Republic)
- CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation (South Africa)
- Free Belarus Now (United Kingdom)
- House of United Belarus – Civil and Political Representation of Belarus (Lithuania)
- Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights Ostgruppen (Germany)
- Office of Belarusian Political Emigration (Belgium)
- Ostgruppen – Swedish Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (Sweden)
- Young Belarus in the European Union (Belgium)