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Business, human rights, and the Baku 2015 European Games

Azerbaijan will host the 2015 European Games, in Baku.  In the light of major human rights abuses by the Azeri government, sponsors and other companies involved in the games are likely to face mounting pressure.

For context, also see related story with NGO commentaries: UN Working Group Visits Azerbaijan.

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20 January 2015

Human Rights and the 2022 Olympics

Author: Minky Worden, Director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, in New York Times

"Human Rights and the 2022 Olympics", 19 Jan 2014

The Olympic spirit has come to this: Two authoritarian countries are vying to host the 2022 Winter Games, competing to endure a huge financial strain for the benefit of burnishing their public image. The withdrawal of Oslo in October left Beijing, China’s capital, and Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, as the contenders...

That helps explain why the president of the International Olympic Committee, the German lawyer Thomas Bach, pushed through landmark human rights reforms at a big Olympic summit meeting in Monaco last month.

For the first time, host countries must sign a contract that requires protections for human rights, labor and the environment...These reforms are about to get a rigorous test in the global spotlight...

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NGO rejoinder
6 October 2014

Response to BP, from Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business, regarding Baku 2015 sponsorship

While we appreciate your response of September 19th, we feel it is important to state that in our opinion it does not provide convincing and reliable information that BP is undertaking any steps to ensure that its engagement with Baku 2015 does not cause adverse human rights impacts…We look forward to further constructive exchange, but also to concrete actions on BP’s side to ensure that its support to Baku2015 does not result in increased human rights violations due to the funding available from sponsorship contracts…

Download the full document here

NGO rejoinder
6 October 2014

Response to McDonald's, from Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business, regarding Baku 2015 sponsorship

Thank you for your reply of September 16th to our letter and providing us with information about McDonald’s commitment to human rights, non-discrimination and diversity.  We also appreciate your readiness to engage in dialogue with company’s stakeholders. 

We note however that while you have provided us with information about the general policy of the company with regards to human rights, some of our concerns and questions remain unanswered…

Download the full document here

13 September 2014

Leyla has sent a letter to Arif about recent events — her family asks that this be widely shared in international media

Author: Leyla Arif Yunus

Yesterday on September 11, I clearly realized that authorities set a goal to destroy me physically by using humiliation, tortures and beatings. Yesterday Nuriyye Huseynova assaulted me again in the period that UN representatives were on the territory of Kurdakhani in our building… After 6-7 minutes that UN representatives left our cell, Nuriyye Huseynova attacked me again. I rushed to the door and started banging it; the worker of guard personnel Nazakat Mamedova did not fulfill my request to invite UN representatives to my cell...

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21 August 2014

The 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan: Human Rights Violations Already

Author: Michael Kourabas, in Triple Pundit

As oil-rich Azerbaijan prepares to host next year’s inaugural ‘European Games,’ the Azerbaijani government has stepped up its crackdown on activists speaking out against its abysmal human rights record.  As of this writing, more than 20 human rights defenders have been detained by the government, including four of the country’s most prominent activists. Meanwhile, the European Games’ lead organizer has claimed that it is not his job to criticize the host country; denied any knowledge of the government’s oppressive habits; and declared Azerbaijan an “incredibly free society.” Current and future corporate sponsors of the games should take notice and carefully consider their decision to be affiliated with the event...[As of August 2014, sponsors listed on Baku2015.com are: BP, Nar Mobile, P&G, Tissot (part of Swatch), McDonald's and Tickethour]

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