Ana Paula Oliveira and Maria da Penha, two mothers from Rio affected by police violence and evictions linked to the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games, were among the speakers in a debate on ‘Human rights legacy in sporting events’ during the 32nd Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva.
The event, organised by Terre des Hommes, Amnesty International Brazil, Nosso Jogo and Verein Südwind Entwicklungspolitik, gave both women the chance to share their stories. Representatives from Terre des Hommes’ Children Win campaign and Amnesty International were also present to add to the discussion.
Here are some of the highlights:
Ana Paula Oliveira, whose son was shot dead by ‘pacification’ police in Rio before the 2014 FIFA World Cup:
“I am here as mother of Johnatha, killed by a policeman. My son was not a criminal.
“I am speaking not only on behalf of my pain, but I am the voice of thousands of young people killed every day in the favelas in Rio, mainly by policemen. I want to see the killers be held accountable. We must acknowledge the reality that we see; the increase in the number of young people killed by the police every day.
“I am here to claim our right to live. We all, our children especially, have the right to live.”
Maria da Penha, who was evicted from her home in Vila Autodromo in March:
“I used to live just next to the Olympic Park. We were forced to leave. We were not consulted, nor did we receive any compensation. We were under pressure, physically and psychologically. I now live in a container.
“I want to ask the Olympic committee to lead the government into bringing us back to our houses at the end of the Games, and to respect human rights during other Games in the future. I hope in the future, things can be different.”
Andrea Florence, Terre des Hommes:
“Just like Maria da Penha and her family, it is estimated that 7,000 families were evicted without due process or compensation to make way for infrastructure directly or indirectly linked to the Olympics in Rio. Children in Brazil subjected to forced eviction have reported physical violence during removal, including the use of pepper spray and tear gas, worsening health care, lack of places to study and psychological traumas due to intimidation.”
“In October 2015, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child warned the world about ‘clearances of street children’ ahead of the 2016 Olympics. Just as predicted, during the first two months of an operation called “Operação Segurança Presente (“Operation Security Present”), the first operation 100% privately financed, more than 850 people were arrested and 209 people in street situation were removed.”
“The Olympics and the World Cup often cause human rights violations directly related to the event or exacerbate already existing ones, with children being particularly vulnerable.
“The “Fundamental Principles of Olympism” as established in the Olympic Charter, guarantees, amongst other values, the respect for “human dignity”, for “universal fundamental principles” and the “educational value of good example”. In addition, according to principle 11 of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has the responsibility to respect human rights.”
“A global sporting event can only be truly successful and legitimate if it does not harm the host population – including its children.”
“It is time the IOC aligns its practices to its ideals by putting in place all measures necessary to prevent, monitor and provide remedy to human rights and child rights abuses connected to the Olympics. ”
Naomi Westland, Media Manager for Amnesty International UK:
“The heads of sports governing bodies have a role to play here in introducing measures to prevent human rights abuses linked to their events, and by using their influence to press for change.
“There is little doubt that a country’s human rights problems can, without proper safeguards, be exacerbated when a big international sports events comes to town. Unless major sport bodies act to turn this around they are running the risk of their events becoming associated as much with human rights abuses as they are with sport.
“The IOC has said it will revise the 2024 contract after the Rio Olympics, and we urge them to seize this opportunity to set the bar for the future Olympic Games by putting all the necessary measures in place to ensure that people’s lives are not made miserable by their events.
“Sport can be a force for good, bringing people together, providing opportunities for those who have few. But there are many who seek to abuse the power of sport in order to whitewash their image abroad and consolidate power at home.
“The Olympic charter states that sport is a human right, but when the staging of Olympic events falls short in protecting human rights, that claim rings increasingly hollow. It is time for this to change.”
Jamil Chade, journalist and author of the book ‘Bribes, Politics and Football.’:
“FIFA and the IOC have kidnapped legitimate emotions of fans and have transformed them into private profits.
“The World Cup in Brazil was the largest institutionalised robbery of the century.
“The Olympics and the World Cup in Brazil have proven that there are no short cuts for development. And mega events by themselves will not solve social problems.
“The Olympic Games can be used for public gains, but what actually happens is a money flow from public funds into private pockets.”