Statement of Kharkiv Human Rights Group
We fully support the campaign “Don’t play with the dictator!” and hope that the Ice Hockey Federation will understand the important message they can give by relocating the 2014 Ice Hockey Championship from Minsk, Belarus.
While we all welcome the release of Andrei Sannikov and Dzmitry Bandarenka, there is no evidence of any let up in the grave abuses of human rights and repression in Belarus.
Belarusians are being denied their most fundamental rights, including the right to life itself. Alexander Lukashenka recently flouted pleas from all democratic countries and international bodies and refused to pardon two young men, Uladzislau Kavalyou and Dzmitry Kanavalau. They were executed after a seriously flawed trial which had never satisfactorily proved the men’s guilt.
A decision by the International Ice Hockey Federation to relocate the Championship from Minsk until the regime releases all the country’s political prisoners and issues a moratorium on the death penalty will send a vital signal to Lukashenka and his regime.
It will be heard by all those in the post-Soviet realm who believe they can flout human rights and repress their citizens with impunity.
Halya Coynash, Kharkiv Human Rights Group