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Gay Olympians Will be Safe, Russia Promises, Georgians Release Tajik Journalist

Plus, Amnesty faults Armenian gay and media rights, and the EU warns Croatia over an extradition law. by Erik N. Nelson, Ioana Caloianu, Vladimir Matan, and Sintija Treimane 23 August 2013

1. Russia to IOC: ‘Gay propaganda’ law doesn’t discriminate


Regardless of the widely criticized anti-gay mood in Russia these days, the country’s officials have made an attempt to assure the International Olympic Committee they will not discriminate against gay athletes in the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics.


Dmitri Kozak
In defense of the recent law banning pro-gay lifestyle statements that might be seen by minors, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Kozak wrote to the IOC noting that the legislation does not discriminate because its limits on expression apply to non-gays, too, the Associated Press reports.


“These legislations apply equally to all persons, irrespective of their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, and cannot be regarded as discrimination based on sexual orientation,” Kozak said adding that it does not pose any limitations based on sexual orientation on participants or spectators to the 2014 Sochi games, according to AP.


Kozak stressed that the law does not penalize homosexuality but centers around the “restriction of information that promotes non-traditional sexual relationships among children.” The deputy prime minister did not, however, address what would happen to anyone wearing a sign of solidarity with sexual minorities, AP notes.


The issue came into international media focus after Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro painted her fingernails in rainbow colors adopted by the gay community at the Moscow world athletics championship. Tregaro’s statement was criticized by Russian athlete Yelena Isinbaeva as a sign of disrespect toward Russia, according to AP.


Fearing how the law would affect the games, IOC Chairman Jacques Rogge asked Moscow for a clarification, according to the BBC. Human rights activists have called for a boycott, but U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron disagreed, with Obama arguing that the best way of fighting anti-gay attitudes would be for LGBT athletes to win medals at the games.


2. Amnesty takes Armenia to task for rights abuses


The beginning of Amnesty International’s report on freedom of expression in Armenia might be quoted on a government press release: “Critical views are freely expressed in newspapers, TV, and the Internet on a variety of topics.”


But as is often the case, it’s not what you say, it’s what you don’t – or can’t – say.


“A number of issues, particularly those running counter to the core tenets of a mainstream Armenian identity, remain taboo,” the recently released report says. “Human rights defenders, journalists, and others who take up minority views on controversial issues, such as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and abuses within the armed forces, occasionally face intimidation, harassment, threats, and abuse.”


The report, “Armenia: No space for difference,” also takes the country to task for intimidation and violence against sexual minorities.


Like some other former Soviet republics, Armenia has seen recent attempts to legislate against speech that condones gay and other untraditional lifestyles, as well as prominent Armenians condoning expressions of hatred of homosexuality.


On the other hand, Armenia has improved its rights records since it gained independence in 1991, Natalia Nozadze, Amnesty’s South Caucasus researcher, told Radio Free Europe.


The report faults the government’s dealing with issues “that are considered either very sensitive for the Armenian public or issues that fall outside of the mainstream view,” she said. “In analyzing those cases, it becomes clear that the Armenian government is failing to protect the freedom of expression of those individuals.”


3. Journalist sought by Tajikistan wins freedom in Georgia


Dodojon Atovulloev
Dodojon Atovulloev, a Tajik journalist known for criticizing Tajikistan President Imomali Rahmon and his family, has been released by Georgian authorities from detention in Tbilisi’s airport, Radio Free Europe reports.


According to Asia Plus, Atovulloev was detained 20 August at the request of Interpol when he arrived in Georgia from the Czech Republic to attend meetings. The journalist said he is accused of “religious extremism and terrorism” back home in Tajikistan but that the charges are politically motivated.


The international media rights group Reporters Without Borders published an appeal on its website calling on Georgian authorities to quickly release Atovulloev and let him return to Germany. 


“The Tajik government has for years been using all kinds of means to get its hands on this journalist. The arrest warrant that it apparently sent to Interpol is just its latest scheme,” the group’s statement said.


On 15 July, Atovulloev was not allowed to enter Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport for reasons Russian authorities did not make public.


Radio Free Europe writes that Atovulloev has been living in Moscow for the past 20 years and he survived a stabbing attack at a restaurant there last year. The journalist has said he believes the attack was motivated by his work.


He now lives in Germany, where he has been granted political asylum, RFE writes.


4. EU blasts Croatian law protecting assassination suspect


The European Commission has warned Croatia that it could face sanctions if it fails to scrap recent amendments to the European Arrest Warrant the country made in order to avoid extraditing a murder suspect to Germany, according to


At issue is whether Croatia extradites the director of the Yugoslav-era Croatian secret police, Josip Perkovic, whom German authorities suspect of murdering a communist-era defector. 


European Arrest Warrants are legally binding, so after joining the European Union on 1 July, Croatia had to comply with the warrant issued for Perkovic by German authorities. However, Croatian lawmakers amended the EAW three days before accession to make extraditions applicable only to offenses committed after August 2002, EUobserver reports.  


EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has contacted Croatian Justice Minister Orsat Miljenic twice about the amendments, which “observe neither the letter nor the spirit of these obligations and breach EU law.” Reding added that Croatia’s failure to comply with the EU request would open the door for sanctions.


Croatian officials must inform the commission by midnight on 23 August that they plan to amend the law to meet EU standards, Mina Andreeva, Reding’s spokeswoman, told EUobserver.


Croatia faced delays in EU accession talks over its failure to cooperate with the Hague war-crimes tribunal for Yugoslavia. 


5. Beach holiday mega-military hovercraft video surfaces


Like the big shark at the crowded beach in the movie Jaws, it is an ominous sight: bathers in swimsuits line the shore amid colorful umbrellas as an enormous dark-gray vessel with a gun turret and three towering propellers kicks up huge clouds of spray as it appears to drift into the crowded beach.



This is the latest YouTube video in a string of bizarre and sometimes terrifying sights that have come out of Russia lately as a result of the proliferation of video cameras – particularly the dashboard-mounted variety, Radio Free Europe reports.


Those include multiple perspectives of a meteor streaking through the sky and exploding over Chelyabinsk, a fighter jet buzzing a rural highway near Volgograd, and a tank suddenly crossing onto a road near Nizhny Tagil.


The network cites Russian media reports that the incident took place in a village in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania.


The “Bison” hovercraft hit the beach in “wild waters,” according to a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman quoted in Komsomolskaya Pravda, RFE writes. “What people were doing on a beach in a region of military training is not clear,” the spokesman adds, implying that the landing was not on a public beach.


The video on the Russian newspaper’s site has footage of beachgoers standing around the big vessel, weighing in at 500,000 kilograms (550 tons), after it appeared to have shut down and could be seen clearly.


It is not clear from the media reports when the incident happened or if anyone was injured as a result of the landing.

Erik N. Nelson is a TOL contributing editorIoana Caloianu is a TOL editorial assistant. Vladimir Matan and Sintija Treimane are TOL editorial interns.
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