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Church Court Chambers’ international human rights barrister Michael Polak, drafted a formal written complaint which has been submitted to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Ethics Commission through the Ethics and Compliance Officer alleging breaches of the Olympic movement’s ethical principles. Michael was instructed by the NGO Safeguard Defenders.
The submission argued that the actions of IOC President Mr. Tomas Bach, Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission Ms. Emma Terho, and IOC Member in China Ms. Li Lingwei, in taking part in a virtual meeting set up by the Chinese authorities with the tennis player Peng Shuai, who appears to be subject to a routine form of Chinese Residential Detention, whilst failing to call for an investigation into her sexual abuse allegation against Chinese ex State Council Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli or for her to be able to leave China or speak freely, is a breach of the ethical principles under the IOC’s Code of Ethics.
It was submitted that the IOC’s actions increased the immediate danger that Peng Shuai faces and it was noted that the continued use of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location, and Residential Surveillance, and forced confessions/retractions used by the Chinese authorities are breaches of international law. Therefore, the participation of Mr. Bach, Ms. Terho, and Ms. Lin Lingwei, a previous National People’s Congress delegate, was a breach of their duty to uphold the IOC’s Code of Ethics and to “use due care and diligence in fulfilling their mission”, to respect “universal fundamental ethical principles” and to respect “international conventions on protecting human rights”. The complaint also submitted that Mr. Bach, in failing to call for a proper and full investigation of the sexual abuse allegations, had also breached the duty to reject “all forms of harassment and abuse, be it physical, professional or sexual, and any physical or mental injuries”.
Safeguard Defenders Director, Peter Dahlin, who was once himself subject to arbitrary detention and forced confession in China, stated in a recent open letter that, ‘Peng Shuai’s abrupt disappearance, her inability to engage in her regular life, and the string of ever stranger public statements and/or appearances, indicates beyond doubt that she is under police control’ and that ‘it is likely that Peng is either kept… [under] house arrest, Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location or placed under control outside of any legal measures’. The open letter went on to note that ‘Peng Shuai’s undisclosed video-calls heralded by IOC executives in international media were like clockwork, as they responded to international criticism’ and that ‘everything indicates she is and will remain under strict control […] to ensure her #metoo allegations do not take hold, as such allegations are considered a threat to the CCP’s hold on power.’
Upon submission, Michael Polak stated that, ‘It is clear that the way Mr Bach and the IOC leadership have behaved in relation to the censoring of Peng Shuai and the terrible situation she is in under the control of the Chinese authorities, has fallen below the standard one would expect of an international organisation. The IOC should be safeguarding the rights of athletes rather than purely focusing on seeking to salvage the Beijing 2022 Olympics from being a PR disaster. The Ethics Commission is supposed to hold IOC members and its executive to account. If they are unwilling to do this, then states around the world must call for a proper independent body to do so.’
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