UK may bar Syrian officials from Olympics over human rights abuses

By Andrew Sparrow, The Guardian
Sunday, May 27, 2012 17:00 EDT
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By Andrew Sparrow, guardian.co.uk

Nick Clegg has said that the government would stop Syrian military figures accused of human rights abuses from visiting the UK during the Olympics.

He said on Sunday that the government had recently changed the rules so that there was now a presumption that those individuals “shown to have abused human rights” would be banned.

Clegg was speaking after a Syrian general close to President Bashar al-Assad told the Times that he was determined to come to the Olympics in his capacity as president of the Syrian national Olympic committee. General Mofwaq Joumaa, who is hoping to lead a 31-strong Syrian delegation at the Games, said that it would be unfair if he was blocked because of his military background.

Joumaa’s challenge to the UK coincided with fresh violence in Syria, where more than 90 people, including 32 children, were killed in a regime-backed massacre in Houla.

Speaking on BBC 1′s Andrew Marr show, Clegg said that the “scenes of savagery” that had been broadcast from the town were “just revolting, stomach churning”.

Clegg would not comment on particular individuals being banned from the UK. But, when asked if people connected with abuses of this kind would be denied entry, he replied: “Of course.”

He explained: “As a government, we have recently changed the rules about who we allow into this country and who we refuse entry to. For the first time we are saying if there’s evidence that you have abused human rights, and that’s independently shown to be the case, you will not be able to come into this country.”

Alistair Burt, a Foreign Office minister, delivered a similar warning to Joumaa and others in an interview on Sky News. He said that military figures coming to the UK for the Olympics would have to pass a Home Office test involving their presence in the country being “conducive to the public good”.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012

Photo by Chitrapa (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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