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Human Rights In Last Place

beijing_2008.gifBeijing 2008, Sochi 2014, Rio 2016: BRIC nations are having an Olympic boom.  It is an unfortunate fact, however, that the Olympic Games tend to spell trouble for civil liberties when taking place in authoritarian regimes.  One only has to look at the notorious examples of human rights infringements occurring before the Beijing event for confirmation – as Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch does in today’s Washington Post.  Will the questionable property expropriations, hushing of foreign journalists and despoliation of local ecosystems familiar to Beijing also be witnessed at the Sochi Games in 2014?

Why worry now about the Sochi Games? This year alone, several Russian rights activists and journalists have been killed within a few hundred miles of Sochi. The Committee to Protect Journalists ranks Russia as the world’s third-deadliest country for reporters. Seventeen Russian journalists have been killed since 2000. Journalists and citizens know a climate of impunity toward these deaths has been fostered.

Research by Human Rights Watch in Sochi this year has uncovered potential problems that, if unaddressed, could develop into rights violations linked to preparations for the Games. Olympic construction in and near Sochi is a potential source of grave health hazards. One village has been without running water for a year; all of its wells have been shut down because of construction or pollution. 

Researchers also observed a depressingly familiar lack of transparency in land expropriations. On just one street in Sochi, for example, residents face the expropriation by local authorities of 119 properties and dozens of plots of land to make room for Olympics-related construction. Residents are given little or no information on compensation or resettlement options, or on how to dispute official appraisal values.

Read the whole article here.