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Home / Press Release / Four LGBT Activists Arrested in Russia as Olympic Games Begin
February 07, 2014

Four LGBT Activists Arrested in Russia as Olympic Games Begin

Sochi, Russia – Human Rights First condemns the arrests of four Russian LGBT activists in St. Petersburg. The four, including Anastasia Smirnova, with whom Human Rights First’s delegation met yesterday, were arrested for displaying a banner promoting Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter.

“Having just met with Anastasia and her fellow activists yesterday, we were shocked to hear of her arrest,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “This confirms our concerns about growing violence and discrimination, and increased use of the anti-propaganda law. We renew our calls for the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee to speak out publicly against these discriminatory laws.”

When meeting with the Human Rights First delegation in St. Petersburg yesterday, Smirnova, who is coordinating LGBT work related to the Olympics, said, “The most alarming thing is despite the international attention, the authorities are still bringing more charges under the law and it is being applied on a larger scale.” She also added, “Whatever happens in Sochi is not illustrative of how cases will be treated after the Olympics.”

Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter states, “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” This principle has been invoked by opponents of Russia’s anti-propaganda law in efforts to urge the International Olympic Committee to take a tougher stance against Russia’s discriminatory policies. Human Rights First is a member of the Principle 6 Campaign.

“It is alarming to see that even with the world’s attention on Russia, the authorities are still continuing with their repressive crackdown on the LGBT community,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “If this is how Russia behaves when all eyes are on Sochi, how will authorities act when the torch leaves? It is more important than ever that we remain vigilant after the Games are over.”

Human Rights First’s delegation, which includes gay athlete David Pichler, an Olympic diver, is currently in Russia for the Sochi Games. While there, they will engage the international media and human rights defenders about the crackdown on civil society in Russia. They will also work to ensure that attention to these issues continues once the Games are over. Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government to keep up the pressure on Russian lawmakers to repeal the anti-propaganda laws and prevent the passage of further discriminatory laws.

For more information or to speak with Gaylord, contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at MargolisME@humanrightsfirst.org.