Baku Games partners questioned
Leading European human rights organisations have written to the partners of the Baku European Games (scheduled to be held in June 2015) to ask the companies the extent to which they had taken into account the Azerbaijan human rights situation in their decision to sponsor / support the Games.
Campaigners say that in the run-up to the games the Azerbaijan government has stepped up its crack-down on human rights activists. Amnesty International has identified 24 prisoners of conscience who have been detained pending trial or jailed for criticising the record of President Ilham Aliyev and his government. One of the prsisoners, Leyla Yunus, has called for a boycott of the Games over the deteriorating situation in the country.
The letter, sent to four 'Official Partners' of the Games - BP, Nar Mobile, P&G and Tissot (part of Swatch Group), as well as to two companies listed as 'Official Supporters - McDonald's and TicketHour - asked a number of questions about the companies decision to attach their names to the games.
Within the letter, the organisations asked if the company:
- Took into consideration the political situation in the country, particularly the long-lasting repression nor civil society in the country and the wave of arrest of human rights defenders in July and August 2014?
- Analysed the impact of development of sports infrastructure on local communities, particularly bearing in mind the unlawful evictions in various Baku districts that have preceded this event e.g. for the Eurovision contest?
- Required the Games organiser to conduct and disclose the results of the human rights and environmental impact assessment of the new building/infrastructure projects?
- Required inclusion of a human rights clause that would enable BP to terminate the sponsorship agreement if the organization of the Games gave rise to increased human rights violations?
- Has in place adequate policies, processes and grievance mechanisms to enable those negatively affected by the Games, in organisation of which it is financially involved, to seek effective remedy and justice in case adverse human rights impacts occur?
In its response, McDonald's attempted to distance itself from involvement saying that, "While our local developmental licensee in Azerbaijan has publicly expressed support for the Games, neither of us is an official sponsor of them and we are not making any financial donations to the organising committee." This despite the golden arches appearing on the Baku Games website along with those of the other corporate partners.
Swatch attempted to distance itself from other sponsors saying that in providing time-keeping devices it provided an "important service to athletes" and that it was not "a sponsor".
Signatories of the letter include the European Coalition for Corporate Justice, International Service for Human Rights, World Organization Against Torture, and many NGOs based in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
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