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A letter of the HFHR to the President of FIBA Europe

On 15 July the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights intervened with the President of FIBA Europe, the European branch of the Federation of International Basketball Associations, regarding the incident that occurred during the European Women’s Basketball Championship held in Poland in June.

A detailed account of the incident can be found in the article ‘Polski skandal z białoruską flagą’ (‘A Polish scandal with a Belarusian flag’) published in the Rzeczpospolita daily on 28 June 2011.During the match between Lithuania and Belarus, security guards ordered Belarusian fans to remove the white-red-white flags they were flying that had been forbidden by Lukashenko’s regime. When asked for a reason, the guards claimed that the flags were too large.  When the fans unfolded smaller versions of the flags, however, they were once again forced by the guards to remove them. The intervening security guards used violence and, among other things, twisted fans’ arms.  The security and organisers claimed that the action was carried out according to event regulations, namely those of FIBA.

In its letter addressed to the President of FIBA, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights noted that FIBA regulations contained no provisions justifying the actions taken by the security guards. The FIBA regulations that govern the use of flags during sport events apply only to organisers and provide that the organiser must ensure that the flags of the teams taking part in the competition are placed in a manner that will be equal for all. The cited regulation further clarifies that the flags shall be hung in alphabetical order according to the English language. There are no regulations regarding the use of flags by fans.

The aggressive behaviour of the security guards constituted a violation of the right to freedom of expression and, at the same time, were in favour of Lukashenka’s regime. In light of the above, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights asked the President of FIBA Europe to take a stance on the matter.

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