Human Rights Watch have called on the IOC to better regulate host nations ©HRW

An in-house expert and an independent monitoring body must be appointed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to regulate the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic hosts, be it either Almaty or Beijing, a leading human rights organisation has warned.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Non-Governmental Organisation which has been strongly critical of sporting bodies awarding major events to authoritarian regimes in recent years, praised the IOC last year following changes to the Host City Contract introduced as part of the Agenda 2020 reform process.

This included a specific requirements for host cities to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, as well as to ensure labour rights and other human rights protections

No human rights monitoring mechanisms have been put in place to measure a host country’s respect for these rules, however, HRW claimed. 

Such a system should be introduced and countries stripped of the Games if they fail to comply, HRW said in a new release. 

The release has been timed to coincide with vote to decide between Chinese capital Beijing and Kazakhstan's largest city Almaty in the race for the 2022 Games.

Both prospective hosts have been strongly condemned for alleged human rights abuses 

Authorities in both nations "are openly hostile to media and activists who criticise the Government and fail to protect freedom of expression, assembly, and association and other basic human rights", it is claimed by HRW. 

"Discrimination and labour violations, and Government failure to combat them, are serious concerns," a release from HRW added.

"Neither country provides effective, independent judicial mechanisms for people seeking protection from abuse."

IOC President Thomas Bach, pictured visiting Kyrgyzstan this year, believes the IOC must be politically neutral  in order to best represent the entrie world ©Getty Images
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, pictured visiting Kyrgyzstan this year, believes they must be politically neutral in order to best represent the entire world ©IOC

Alleged Chinese censorship is particularly cited, including the recent crackdown on virtual private networks used by many journalists.

The alleged harassment of opposition in Kazakhstan and the consideration of a supposedly homophobic law which ultimately failed to make it through the Constitutional Council earlier this year, is also highlighted by the HRW report. 

The Reports released last month by the IOC Evaluation Commission following visits to both cities did not "adequately identify the serious human rights concerns", it is alleged, obtaining only “written assurances” that there would be “no restrictions,” concluding that there are “no … identified” risks to “media operations". 

IOC President Thomas Bach has repeatedly stressed, however, that they must be "politically neutral" when selecting a host city, even if they do not necessarily support the political or the legal systems in place there.

In a letter to HRW dated July 15, he reiterated how, as "a sporting organisation, we are not in a position to dictate the wider laws of any sovereign nation".

"This is not our role," he added.

"Our role is that when it comes to evaluate Candidate Cities and to elect Host Cities, we have the necessary guarantees that there is no discrimination of any kind at the Games."

Despite this stance, it appears likely they will face more criticism over coming months and years following the selection of the host city during the IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur on July 31.

“Whether China or Kazakhstan wins the honour of hosting the 2022 Winter Games, the IOC will face an extreme test of its new commitment to improve human rights protections,” said Minky Worden, global initiatives director at HRW.

“The IOC should insist that the host country rigorously comply with the Olympic Charter and basic human rights rules - or risk losing the right to host the Games.

"The 2022 Winter Games are when the rubber meets the road for the IOC in terms of backing core principles.

“Knowing that either way the selection process goes, a serious rights abuser will host the Games, the IOC should require meaningful rights protection in host city contracts, and monitor those commitments as rigorously as it monitors stadium construction, telecommunications, and other requirements.”

Related stories
May 2015: Letter sent to IOC calling for pressure on Kazakhstan to drop proposed anti-gay rights bill
March 2015: Nick Butler: Beijing appear to have edge in race for 2022 Olympics but human rights issues will cast long shadow
March 2015: Beijing 2022 criticise those who use Olympic bid to "achieve political goals"
October 2014: IOC praised by Human Rights Watch for "gold medal" winning Host City Contract changes
October 2014: Marc Naimark: Revised Olympic Host City contract does not protect against homophobia