We have become accustomed to undemocratic countries being awarded Football World Cups or to European Football Championships being held in countries like Ukraine with less than optimal respect for human rights. (Although Ukraine at least has the hottest political protesters in the world.)
But there is also the reverse connection: countries using sports events as a reason to curtail human rights. The latest example comes not from one of the usual suspects, but from the United Kingdom.
The UK has been keeping Abu Qatada detained on and off since 2002. Tellingly, he has never been charged with any criminal offence by the British government. Currently, Britain is trying to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan. He contests these efforts in court.
Today, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission ruled that Abu Qatada will have to remain in jail for another 5 months until the next hearing, denying him bail. The reasons for this decision? “The very high level of demand in resources” during the Olympics that would be necessary to ensure the curfew that had previously been imposed.
In effect, the court allows the British government to limit the right to freedom based on a sports event and the lack of enough police or the – possibly erroneous – decision to put almost all of Britain’s police and military resources into protecting the Olympic Games in London. With this reasoning, countries can simply hold major sports or other events or reduce the number of available police officers, and the court will always have to rule in favour of jail. Absurd. And dangerous. Definitely more dangerous than a man who has never even been charged with a crime in this country.