General Mowaffak Joumaa, head of Syria’s National Olympic Committee, is believed to have been barred over links to regime
The head of Syria’s National Olympic Committee, General Mowaffak Joumaa, is understood to have been banned from attending the London Olympics next month because of his links with Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the Syrian military.
Whitehall sources have confirmed that Joumaa submitted his application at the end of last week and it is believed to have been turned down. The Guardian revealed earlier this month that his application would be refused.
Exclusion decisions are taken by a joint Home Office and Foreign Office committee, with input from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Sources said there was “very little sympathy” for the Syrian NOC chief.
There has been a debate behind the scenes about the best approach to take to individuals who are not subject to international travel bans but whose attendance presents an ethical dilemma.
Speaking 100 days before the Games, the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said Britain did not intend to use the event to “preach about our values” to the 120-plus foreign heads of state expected to descend on London for the Games.
However, the Syrian application is believed to fall into a different category given the ongoing violence in the country, which has claimed 15,000 lives in 15 months.
The International Olympic Committee has said it is down to the UK government to decide whether Joumaa should be allowed to enter the country and is expected to ratify the decision.
Opposition groups had lobbied Britain to ban Joumaa. The British Solidarity for Syria group (BSS) described Joumaa as “an aide, supporter and apologist for a regime committing war crimes and crimes against humanity including torture, sexual violence and extra-judicial executions”. It also expressed grave concerns about the links of the general secretary of the Olympic committee, Feras Mouala, to the regime and urged that he be investigated.
A Home Office spokeswoman said it would not comment on individual cases.
The Foreign Office said it was a matter for the Home Office. Previously, it has said that anyone subject to a EU or UN travel ban, a list that includes Robert Mugabe, would be banned from entering the UK.
“Entry will also be refused where an individual’s presence would not be conducive to the public good. Where there is independent, reliable and credible evidence that an individual has committed human rights abuses, the individual will not normally be permitted to enter the UK,” it said.
The joint committee is believed to be working through a series of cases involving other individuals who are not on the EU or UN lists but who have serious criminal convictions to their name.