Independence Square in Minsk during the Ice Hockey World Championships

Human rights organisations appeal to International Ice Hockey Federation and Belarusian President Lukashenka

Joint Statement of:

  • Foundation for the Development of Democratic Initiatives (Poland)
  • Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
  • JEF Europe – Young European Federalists (Belgium)
  • Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights (Switzerland)
  • Assocation „Human Rights in Belarus“ (Germany)
  • Östgruppen (Sweden)
  • People in Need (Czech Republic)

In the run-up to the ice hockey world championships 2014 to be held from the 9th to 25th May in Minsk, the regime of president Lukashenka is taking ruthless action against the political opposition in Belarus. At least 20 opponents of the Lukashenka regime have been arrested and sentenced to between 5 and 25 days in prison. Through these repressive measures, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to round up all those prepared to raise their voices against the appalling state of human rights in Belarus, during this ice hockey world championship.

As international human rights organisations, we fiercely condemn the systematic imprisonment of the political opposition in Belarus. We demand that President Alexander Lukashenka release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally. In addition, we demand that this ongoing prosecution of political opponents, to coincide with the ice hockey world championship, must stop. In particular we demand that President Lukashenka should immediately release 9 long-term political prisoners.

Furthermore the municipality of Minsk has announced it will cleanse the city of all so called “anti-social elements” such as the homeless, alcoholics and prostitutes, also to coincide with the ice hockey world championship. It is common practice in Belarus to detain alcoholics and drug addicts in special labour camps.

We appeal to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) as well as to all participating delegations and international sponsors to intervene immediately with the municipality of Minsk to prevent this proposed clean-up of the city. It is utterly unacceptable and appalling that sick people and addicts on the fringes of society should be prosecuted, detained and sentenced to forced labour, simply because of an ice hockey world championship.

We demand that the IIHF and its President René Fasel break their silence and take action. In particular we are fiercely critical of the fact that there has been no action taken by the IIHF to prevent the ice hockey world championship being misused as a means of propaganda by the Lukashenka regime. We condemn this unacceptable commingling of sport and politics by the Belarusian state propaganda machine under the guise of a sporting event.

Furthermore, we urge that IIHF-President Fasel should disassociate himself immediately from these politically motivated prosecutions of Belarusian opposition members and speak out for their immediate and unconditional release by President Lukashenka. The IIHF, in its decision to hold the championships in Belarus, bears direct responsibility for the current events there. We require the IIHF not only to respect fairness and human rights outside of the ice hockey field, but also to refuse to take sides with a regime that persecutes its people and locks them up.der