UK should not welcome torturers to the 2012 Olympics

Protesters march through Manama, Bahrain in March 2011 during the height of the public demonstrations against the current government. Hundreds of protesters have been arrested in a violent crackdown; several dozen have been killed and many have reported being tortured in detention. Photo by Al Jazeera English, available through Creative Commons License.

“I fell on the ground repeatedly. He kept hitting me over and over again and asked the torturer to join him…”

This is the testimony of one of 13 opposition activists in Bahrain that were arrested and tortured following the demonstrations last year in the island nation. According to the testimony, the man who tortured those detained, is none other than Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, son of the king and head of Bahrain’s Olympic committee.

Following demonstrations in the Persian Gulf nation during 2011’s Arab Spring, hundreds of opposition leaders and activists were arrested and charged with numerous crimes, including attempting to overthrow the regime. Allegations of torture in Bahraini detention facilities following the government crackdown were even corroborated by a regime-funded investigation. Abdulla Isa Al-Mahroo, Swedish citizen Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad and 64-year-old Mohammed Hassan Jawad all reported that Prince Nasser in particular was present and/or fully participated in their torture and beating in detention.

The London 2012 Olympics begin tomorrow and, in common with other recent high profile international sports and entertainment events, has stoked the debate on the interplay between human rights and sports. In Bahrain earlier this year, the Formula 1 rally led to increased opposition protests andinternational calls for a boycott, yet it eventually took place unhindered. And just a few weeks ago, the EUFA Euro 2012 led to heated debate over the attendance of European political figures at the matches in Ukraine, where torture is systematically employed in police detention and where former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko remains detained on charges that many believe are politically motivated.

More than 200 nations will participate in the London games, with tens of thousands of athletes, coaches, political figures and an estimated four million visitors expected to descend on London over the next two weeks.

In the lead-up to the games, UK foreign minister William Hague warned that the British government would not issue visas for individuals or officials from regimes committing human rights abuses. Yet, so far, only one official – General Mowaffak Joumaa, head of Syria’s National Olympic Committee – is believed to have been denied a visa on these grounds.

Yet Prince Nasser will apparently be welcomed into the UK. It seems that Hague’s ‘rule’ has only been applied in the one case of Syria rather than as a consistent and clear policy.

The UK should apply this across the board – those who torture should not be allowed to attend the Olympic Games.
Click here to sign an Avaaz Community petition, calling on British and Olympic officials to ban Prince Nasser from attending the Olympics.

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