NEWS - Archive February 2014

Headlines 28 February, 2014

28/2/2014- The Observatory has been informed about the attack of the headquarters of “SOS Racismo Madrid”, a human rights organisation which fights against racism and xenophobia since 1992. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Spain.

Description of the situation:
According to the information received, on February 21, 2014 at around 5 a.m., a group of supporters of the extreme right-wing party “Democracia Nacional” (DN) attacked the premises of SOS Racismo Madrid, in the Lavapiés district of the Spanish capital. Members of DN placed a large banner with hung puppets on the front of the building, containing xenophobic catchwords such as “Stop the invasion!” and blaming the human rights organisation for its “anti-spanish” activities of “denouncing those who protect [spanish] borders”. They also threw firecrackers into the offices of SOS Racismo, attracting the attention of the neighbours who called the police. The nationalist party openly claimed having initiated this action, placed its logo on the banners that were hung on the facade of SOS Racismo Madrid, and posted pictures of the action on its public Facebook page. DN further decided to organise a protest on March 8, 2014 in the same neighbourhood of Lavapiés, with the slogan “Stop the invasion! We have to protect our borders”.

SOS Racismo has strongly denounced this attack as an unacceptable threat against its human rights activities and filed a complaint against the DN, which led to the opening of an investigation by the police. In addition, representatives of SOS Racismo requested an interview with the Prosecutor specialised in hate crimes and discrimination. The Observatory firmly condemns this attack against the headquarters of SOS Racismo, which represents a clear threat against the human rights activities of the NGO, and more generally an infringement against freedom of expression and the fight against racism and xenophobia in Spain.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Spanish authorities, urging them to:
1. Take all necessary measures to guarantee in all circumstances the protection of the human rights organisation SOS Racismo Madrid, its members and all human rights defenders in Spain, from any attack or threat;
2. Conduct a proper, thorough, and timely investigation about the attack committed against the headquarters of SOS Racismo Madrid in order to identify all those responsible and sanction them according to law;
3. React promptly to all racist and xenophobic actions undertaken by extremists movements and their supporters in Spain;
4. Take all necessary measures to protect all human rights defenders in Spain from any kind of harassment, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrances;

v. More generally, conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:
+ its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,
+ and its Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”; 
6 Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Spain.

Addresses:
Head of the Royal House, Mr. Rafael SPOTTORNO DIAZ-CAR Casa de su Majestad el Rey, Palacio de La Zarzuela, Carretera del Pardo s/n, 28071 Madrid, España, Tel: +34 91 599 24 24
President of the Government, Mr. Mariano RAJOY BREY, Complejo de la Moncloa, Avda. Puerta de Hierro, s/n. 28071 Madrid, España
First Vice-President, Minister of the Presidency and Spokeman of the Government, Mme Soraya SAENZ de SANTAMARIA, Complejo de la Moncloa, Avda. Puerta de Hierro, s/n. 28071 Madrid, España
Minister of Interior, Mr. Jorge Fernández DIAZ, Calle Amador de los Ríos, 7, 28010 Madrid, España: Tel: +34 060
Minister of Justice, M. Alberto RUIZ-GALLARDO, San Bernardo, 45, 28071 Madrid, España, Tel: + 34 902 007 214/+34 91 837 22 9
Minister of Foreign Affairs and of Cooperation, Mr. José Manuel GARCIA MARGALLO, Sede Palacio de Santa Cruz, Plaza de la Provincia, 1, 28012 Madrid, España, Tel: + 34 91 379 97 00
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Spain in your respective country.
© FIDH.

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USA Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013

Secretary's Preface

28/2/2014- As we mark the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this year, the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices highlight the continued pursuit of “free and equal dignity in human rights” in every corner of the world. Based on factual reporting from our embassies and posts abroad, these Congressionally mandated reports chronicle human rights conditions in almost 200 countries and territories. The reports draw attention to the growing challenges facing individuals and organizations as governments around the world fall short of their obligation to uphold universal human rights.

I have seen firsthand how these reports are used by a wide range of actors – by Congress in its decision-making processes surrounding foreign security sector assistance and economic aid; by the Department of State and other U.S. government agencies in shaping American foreign policy; and by U.S. citizens, international nongovernmental organizations, foreign governments, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, scholars, and others who are committed to advancing human dignity.

Governments that protect human rights and are accountable to their citizens are more secure, bolster international peace and security, and enjoy shared prosperity with stable democratic countries around the world. Countries that fail to uphold human rights can face economic deprivation and international isolation. Despite that simple truth, these reports show that too many governments continue to tighten their grasp on free expression, association, and assembly, using increasingly repressive laws, politically motivated prosecutions and even new technologies to deny citizens their universal human rights, in the public square, and in virtual space.

This is evident in our report on Syria, where the government has committed egregious human rights violations in an ongoing conflict that has claimed more than 100,000 lives, displaced millions, and created an opening for violent extremists that continues to endanger regional stability and our own national security. As President Obama has said, “Strong nations recognize the value of active citizens. They support and empower their citizens rather than stand in their way, even when it is inconvenient – or perhaps especially when it is inconvenient – for government leaders.”

Unfortunately, these reports describe new and existing legislative restrictions, in countries such as Russia, that continue to curb civil society and political opposition and target marginalized populations, including religious and ethnic minorities, and the LGBT community. In countries such as China, a lack of judicial independence has fueled a state-directed crackdown on activists and suppression of political dissent and public advocacy. In Ukraine, the prior government increased pressure on civil society, journalists, and protesters calling for government accountability and a future with Europe, but as we all just saw Ukrainians demonstrated once again the power of people to determine how they are governed.

The reports also cover setbacks to freedom of assembly around the world, from Cuba to Egypt, where governments used excessive force to quell peaceful protests and dissent. Governments that commit human rights abuses and fail to hold perpetrators accountable are not only acting against their best interest, but against our own. In countries where human rights are denied, violent extremism and transnational crime take root, contributing to instability, insecurity, and economic deprivation.

In South Sudan, a new democracy struggles to turn the page on decades of armed conflict and human suffering. Conflict fueled by political competition and interethnic violence threatens to derail the country’s fragile gains since independence. Gross human rights violations committed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army as well as by anti-government forces jeopardize regional security as well as the democratic future of the world’s youngest country.

As Secretary of State, I meet with many brave individuals who risk their lives daily to advance human rights, in spite of the threat of violence and government attempts to silence their voice. These reports and the abuses they describe signal to the human rights defenders and activists under siege that the U.S. government recognizes their struggle and stands with civil society.

We at the Department of State will continue to press governments to uphold fundamental freedoms. We remain committed to advocating on behalf of civil society and speaking out for the protection of human rights for all individuals.

I hereby transmit the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 to the United States Congress.

John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
© Human Rights Dept. US State Dept.

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US State Department slams Greece on human rights violations

Report details abuse against refugees and discrimination 

28/2/2014- The US State Department's annual report on human rights is anything but positive for Greece, with the report making reference to refugee abuse, anti-Semitism and discrimination against Roma gypsies. As daily To Vima online reports, The US State Department is particularly concerned about violent attitudes towards migrants. In the report it is stated that despite the efficient inspections of Greek authorities, there are instances of members from the country's security forces being involved in human rights violations. Among others, the report details refers to the dire living conditions in migrant detention centers and prisons, abuse against refugees, prisoners and demonstrators, as well as the actions of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. Regarding freedom of speech, the report stresses that while it is regulated and legally protected, there have been "exceptions", in reference to race and social distinctions. Other findings include the excessive use of police violence against demonstrators and attacks against journalists. The report cites a number of reports from other international groups, such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch.
© ANSAmed.

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28/2/2014- The marginalization of the Romani minority remains Bulgaria’s most pressing human rights problem, according to the annual US Department of State report on human rights practices. The report has drawn attention to the continued deterioration of Bulgaria’s media environment and increase in media self-censorship due to corporate and political pressure. Corruption continues to be a drag on the government’s capabilities and undermines public and business confidence in the judiciary and other government institutions, the US Department of State continues. Other human rights problems, according to the report, include overcrowding and harsh conditions in prisons and detention facilities.

“There were also long delays in the judicial system; reports of abuse of wiretapping; religious discrimination and harassment; harsh conditions in refugee centers; violence and discrimination against women; violence against children; increasing online anti-Semitism; trafficking in persons; discrimination against persons with disabilities; discrimination against members of the Romani and Turkish ethnic minorities; and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons and persons with HIV/AIDS,” the report says. The 2013 annual report has noted that Bulgaria’s government has taken steps to prosecute and punish officials in the security services and elsewhere in the government who committed abuses, however claims that their actions were insufficient, and impunity remained a problem.
The full report can be read here.
© Novinite

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Neo-Nazi demonstration attack trial starts (Sweden)

The seven men, three deemed leading neo-Nazis, suspected of being behind the violent attack on peaceful demonstrators in Stockholm faced charges on Friday on the first day of the high-profile and high-security trial.

28/2/2014- Police spokesman Kjell Lindgren said officers knew of no specific threat against the trial, but the twenty some journalists and other members there to observe proceedings had to pass through airport-style security checks to enter the court room at Södertörn District Court, just south of the capital. "Because there was quite a bit of trouble in Kärrtorp, we have to be prepared for the same here too," he said. Seven men are standing trial for their suspected roles in a violent altercation in the Kärrtorp neighbourhood in mid-December. Three are described as key figures in the Swedish Resistance Movement (Svenska motståndsrörelsen). "An authorized demonstration was attacked by around 30 people, who even attacked the police on the scene," Lindgren said after the heavy-handed attack when police and demonstrators forced the neo-Nazis into a nearby patch of forest.

"Two people were injured and taken to hospital and a policeman was also taken to hospital." Between 500 and 800 demonstrators, according to the organizers, had gathered in Stockholm's southern suburb of Kärrtorp to protest against the spread of racism in their neighbourhood. "I was giving a speech when the Nazis came and started throwing bottles and crackers at the families," Students Against Racism member Enzo Nahuel told news agency TT at the time. Witnesses told The Local that the many children at the event had been so startled by fireworks and crackers that they began crying. The original demonstration was organized by the Line 17 Network, an umbrella civic organization that had warned over the increasing presence of Nazi propaganda in the area since last summer. The attack lead to an even bigger anti-racism demonstration, with several key political figures in attendance.

See video of the altercation
© The Local - Sweden

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Ahead of Zero Discrimination Day, UN agency appeals for tolerance, dignity for all

27/2/2014- “Zero Discrimination Day,” to be marked on 1 March, is a worldwide call to promote and celebrate everyone’s right to a full life with dignity – no matter what they look like, where they come from or whom they love, declared the United Nations agency leading the world’s HIV/AIDS response, as it kicked off celebrations with a major event in Beijing. With strong calls for tolerance, unity and compassion, Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), launched Zero Discrimination Day at an event supported by the China Red Ribbon Foundation, Hanergy Holding Group, Chinese Government, civil society and celebrities. “The AIDS response itself has taught the world tremendous lessons in tolerance and compassion. We know that both the right to health and the right to dignity belong to everyone,” Mr. Sidibé told participants at the event, which wrapped up with more than 30 business leaders signing a pledge to eliminate discrimination in the workplace. “Working together, we can transform ourselves, our communities and our world to reach zero discrimination,” he added, in remarks that evoked the symbol for the UNAIDS Zero Discrimination campaign – the butterfly – widely recognized as a sign of transformation.

Working with Nobel Peace Prize winner and UNAIDS Global Advocate for Zero Discrimination Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the agency launched the #zerodiscrimination campaign in December 2013 on World AIDS Day. “People who discriminate narrow the world of others as well as their own,” she said. “I believe in a world where everyone can flower and blossom.” Events similar to the Beijing launch are planned in countries around the world for the days leading up to Saturday. Many international celebrities have joined the call for zero discrimination, recording video messages and taking photographs with the butterfly sign. The personalities include UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Annie Lennox, international football star David Luiz, actress and activist Michelle Yeoh and Princess Stephanie of Monaco. The private sector is also playing an important part in commemorating Zero Discrimination Day in South Africa, where as part of a longstanding partnership with UNAIDS, the Standard Bank is conducting a social media drive around the day. In addition, the almost 3.5 million subscribers of Airtel, the largest mobile telephone service provider in Malawi, will receive a message promoting “zero discrimination” on 1 March.

Elsewhere, in Myanmar, two major football teams in collaboration with the Myanmar National Football League and Federation will make a pledge supporting zero discrimination during a match at the national football stadium in Yangon. In Minsk, Belarus, an interactive dialogue on promoting zero discrimination in the region will take place with young people; participants will include pop singer Teo. A similar event organized by people living with HIV as well as lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people will take place in a central park in the city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
© UN News Centre

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No political fuel for Poland's far-right

By Lukasz Lipinski

27/2/2014- Last year, on Polish Independence Day, 11 November, tens of thousands of people marched through the centre of Warsaw shouting "Pride, national pride" and "Hit the red scum with a hammer and sickle". Young couples with children walked shoulder to shoulder with football hooligans, all wearing red-and-white scarves, the colours of the Polish flag. Soon the families disappeared and the demonstrators clashed with the police. They burnt down the Warsaw Rainbow, an artistic installation meant to symbolise tolerance, as well as a sentry box outside the Russian embassy. A small group raided a squat inhabited by anarchists and beat them up. "We want to gain power so that the Polish nation can survive biologically, demographically, culturally. So that Poles can exist and so that Poles can be Poles," said Robert Winnicki, the leader of far-right National Movement, which organised the march. He openly declares himself homophobic, but shrugs when asked whether he is anti-Semitic: "Everyone is labelled anti-Semite, if he dares to criticize Jews."

The National Movement is co-operating with Hungary's xenophobic party Jobbik, which itself has around 17 percent in the polls. The two parties plan to exchange candidates in the European elections. A Hungarian nationalist is to be included on the National Movement's lists and vice versa. However, Winnicki's movement is not only far from gaining power in Poland, it also lacks any real influence. A recent poll showed it had no support. It is a paradox that leaders who can gather a crowd in Warsaw every November are non-existent in the polls. How is this possible?

Extremists, but no extreme party
In theory, there is a space for extreme movements in Poland, especially on the right. According to sociological research, around 20 percent of Poles hold nationalist views. Moreover, the European elections provide a good opportunity for the emergence of new movements. The turnout is very low (around 20-25%), so 400,000 votes is enough to make the electoral threshold and get into the European Parliament. But the National Movement is not even close to getting that level of support. First of all, far-right voters are not a politically homogeneous group. No more than a small percentage of Poles oppose democracy, dislike the European Union, and accept authoritarian rule and xenophobia – all at the same time. Meanwhile, right-wing voters have a party to vote for in the form of Law and Justice (PiS). This is the party of former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s and of his twin brother, the late Lech Kaczynski, former president of Poland, who died in a plane crash in 2010 in Smolensk.

PiS is on the margins of the European political mainstream, but it is more like the ruling Fidesz party of Hungary's Viktor Orban than Jobbik. It is mildly nationalist and is against the introduction of the euro, but does not openly oppose the EU and cannot be called xenophobic. In the European Parliament, PiS is in the same political family as the British Conservatives. The small remaining right-wing electorate is targeted by other marginal parties, of which the National Movement is just one. The others are Solidarna Polska, the grouping of Zbigniew Ziobro, a former minister of justice in the PiS government, who recently became more radical; and New Right, which represents an exotic mixture of nationalism and economic libertarianism. The rivalry between them is set to lead to further fragmentation on the right.

Support for the nationalists also remains low because they do not have sufficient political fuel. In western Europe, most far-right parties feed on anti-immigration sentiment. In southern Europe, they gained popularity during the financial crisis. In the eastern part of the continent - in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia - they draw on anti-Roma sentiment. These countries have significant Roma minorities - up to 10 percent of the total population. In Poland, however, immigration is very small scale, mainly from Ukraine and other former Soviet Union countries and the popular mood is still supportive towards migrant workers from the east. Meanwhile, the Roma minority is tiny (15,000-60,000 people, according to different estimates); and the economy sailed through the crisis years in relatively good shape. This year, it is expected to grow by 3 percent. The EU remains very popular in Poland with support at over 80 percent among citizens. Moreover, far-right parties lack funds and party structures, as well as recognisable leaders. The November riots have not improved their image either. All these factors mean that they will probably do poorly in the European vote.

Ruling centre-right under threat
Despite the difficulties faced by the nationalists, the European elections in Poland will still be interesting. Prime Minister Donald Tusk's centre-right Civic Platform, which is scoring 20 percent in the polls, could lose to PiS. That would make it the first election it has lost since 2005. Support for Tusk’s party is falling because of rising unemployment, which is currently at 13-14 percent, more than it was in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis. If this negative trend continues in local elections this autumn, it could lead to the Civic Platform losing power after the 2015 parliamentary elections. Recent polls suggest that PiS will be the favourite in May, and could scoop 25 percent of the vote. The party wants to show that it is the "only real alternative" to Tusk in Poland. As there is no clear coalition partner for PiS, Kaczynski's party is hoping to win a majority in parliament in 2015, which would enable it to form a government on its own.

Rebirth of the Polish left
The European elections will also provide an opportunity for the rebirth of the Polish left. After losing the elections 10 years ago amid corruption scandals, the left failed to regain support. Since 2004, left-wing parties have never exceeded 12 percent of the vote, and the political scene has been dominated by centre-right and right-wing parties. On the left of the political spectrum, the European election will be a duel between two parties, each of which currently has around 10-11 percent support. On the one hand there is the SLD (Democratic Left Alliance), led by Leszek Miller, a former prime minister. This is the more leftist party, partly fuelled by nostalgia for the Communist past. On the other hand there is Your Move (Twoj Ruch), led by businessman Janusz Palikot, which targets younger and more liberal voters. If one of these parties loses significantly, it may not survive. But the winner will hold a monopoly on Poland's left for the years ahead. Polish voters will elect 51 MEPs to the 751-strong European Parliament on 25 May.

Lukasz Lipinski is deputy director of Polityka Insight, a Warsaw-based centre for policy analysis, and a journalist at Polityka, a Polish weekly
© The EUobserver

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Czech neo-Nazis to hold another demonstration against Roma and the ROMEA organization

26/2/2014- This coming Saturday a march by right-wing radicals is scheduled to begin at 14:00 in the Czech town of Plzeņ. A counter-protest by the local initiative Plzeņ against Racism (Plzeņ proti rasismu) is also scheduled. The Czech News Agency has reported that the local anti-racist group is calling for people to attend the protest gathering, which will take the form of a "happening" and will begin at 13:00 on Husovo Square, immediately adjacent to the neo-Nazi's announced march route. Police are preparing for both events and planning security measures, but for tactical reasons will not be publicizing the number of officers to be deployed - however, it can be presumed there will be hundreds in the streets. "We believe it is not good to let this march happen without a response, because it could then be perceived as something normal in our society," the Plzeņ against Racism platform posted to a social networking site. The group is organizing a protest gathering similar to last October's, when several dozen people assembled to demonstrate against another right-wing radical march.

The initiative said it will not place any restrictions on the forms of counter-protest. "We can draw on the sidewalk, play musical instruments, eat, dance, drink, sing, or block the path of the marchers...," the group has written. More than 500 people have confirmed their attendance in the counter-protest through a social networking site. The "happening" has also been supported by an initiative called "We Don't Want Nazis in Plzeņ" (V Plzni nácky nechceme). The march by the right-wing radicals is scheduled to last from 14:00 until 17:00. The Czech News Agency reports that a well-informed sources says the person who announced the march to local authorities is Pavel Bittmann of Plzeņ; a person of that same name has previously been convicted of promoting a movement aimed at suppressing human rights and freedoms. "We will be personally on the scene to follow what happens. Should the law be broken, we will proceed to disperse the assembly," Jiųí Strobach, the mayor of the city's third municipal department, told the Czech News Agency previously.

Bittman told authorities he estimates the number of participants in his event will be 250. He announced it for the purpose of "upholding the rights of all decent citizens of this country and protesting the financing of the anti-Czech, racist ROMEA civic association by the Government of the Czech Republic." Police say the marchers have announced their route as going from Republika Square down Františkánská and Martinská Streets through Americká and Tylová Streets to Emil Škoda Square. Police spokesperson Ivana Telekešová says the police are preparing for both events and will be deploying members of the Aliens Police, canine units, the criminal investigation services, emergency units, riot units, and traffic police. In the past, hundreds of police have been deployed during similar marches, including a helicopter and heavy technology such as water cannon. No long-term street closures are planned, but parking will be banned in several places. Telekešová says parking will be banned on the Denisovo Embankment, where signs have already been posted, on Tylová Street near the Škoda building, and near the mass transit stops on Emil Škoda Square. Marches by right-wing extremists in Plzeņ take place rather frequently; the most recent anti-Romani event occurred last 28 October and was attended by several dozen right-wing radicals only.
© Romea.

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Right-wing Movement to Run in Serbian Polls

The Serbian National Movement 1389, one of a plethora of far-right groups in the country, has joined the race for parliamentary seats in the forthcoming elections to say 'No' to the EU.

26/2/2014- Misa Vacic, of the far-right 1389 movement in Serbia, said that the group will take part in early parliamentary elections in Serbia due on March 16. "Our aim is to bring patriotic values to the people," Vacic said. According to him, these patriotic values include saying "No" to the EU and NATO membership, gay rights and corruption and "Yes" to the re-introduction of compulsory military service. Serbia started accession talks with the EU in January this year but no talks over potential NATO membership have been held. Vacic will be heading the electoral list. "I am hopeful that we will enter parliament," he added. He also said that the group will lead a modest but creative election campaign with graffiti and posters only. Besides its pro-life approach, 1389, named after the date of a famous battle against the Ottoman army in Kosovo, advocates the unification of all territories it considers Serbian into a single state. The movement strongly opposed the 2013 Brussels agreement on normalization of relations with Kosovo. Every year ahead of a gay pride march, the movement is one of the loudest opponents of the event. Two other right-wing formations, Nasi and Obraz, are on the list of the opposition Serbian Radical Party.
© Balkan Insight

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After Sochi, gay sports event faces high hurdles in Russia

26/2/2014- Days after the closing of the Sochi Winter Olympics, a gay sports organisation's plan to hold Russia's first open Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender athletic competition was under threat from bureaucratic barriers it said stemmed from discrimination. The Russian Open games were scheduled to start on Wednesday in Moscow, but organisers were scrambling for alternatives after three venues and a hotel told them a day earlier that they would no longer be able to host the event. A news conference called to address the issues was held outside after police informed organisers they had received a bomb threat and would not allow people to enter the gay club where it was due to have taken place. "Our political leaders say there is no discrimination, but it is obviously discrimination when they stop us from having a sporting event," said Elvina Yuvakayeva, an organiser of the event.

Under fire before the Feb. 7-23 Sochi Winter Olympics over a law he signed last year that critics said discriminated against gays and could encourage hate crimes, President Vladimir Putin said Russia does not discriminate. The Russian LGBT Sport Federation was informed of the cancellations by telephone in the space of a few hours on Tuesday, she said. She said the reasons given by the hotel and venues were diverse. Alexey Fonyatin, director of the Alant-Golyanovo sport complex where the volleyball competition was supposed to take place, said there had been a conflict with an event organised by the city. A representative of the Baikal Hotel, where some participants were to stay, said no rooms would be available because a group of children had been unable to check out.

Konstantin Yablotsky, president of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, said sports should help people "find understanding". "The aim of these games is to send a positive message to our society and authorities that we are normal people ... and ready for positive and constructive dialogue with society and with the authorities," he said. Among the foreigners who came for the games was American diver Greg Louganis, an Olympic champion who is openly gay. Organisers said there were other venues that might still be used, but it was not clear whether the games would go ahead. "Society should understand we are a part of it. We are not marginalized," said Mikhail Tumasov of the Russian LGBT Network. "We are citizens, we play taxes we want rights and respect."
© Reuters

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