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Letters / Violations of basic rights

The 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow has seen a wealth of success for Scotland, and indeed Shetland, and has seen our sporting prowess match up against the other 52 members of the British Commonwealth.

It saddens us, however, to remark on the various violations of basic human rights, torture and degradation inflicted upon people by many of the other members of the Commonwealth, whose athletes right now are competing in Glasgow. 

Countries such as Nigeria, Bangladesh and Singapore use torture, ‘disappearances’ and brutality daily and with impunity. Sri Lanka, which since its devastating civil war has slid into a totalitarian state where a dissenting political opinion can have you vanish from the face of the earth, was chosen to hold last year’s Commonwealth Heads of State meeting, which Prime Minister David Cameron attended despite calls to boycott.

Of the member countries, eight are listed as having elections deemed unfair due to violence against voters or fraud. Most damning, of the 53 countries in the Commonwealth, homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment in 21 of them, by death in two of them, and is illegal but unenforced in a further 18 of them. Of the 53 countries, relationships between people of the same sex, different sexual orientations and differing gender identities are illegal in a frightening 41 of them. Where this list to be comprehensive, it would require a special pull-out supplement.

Take a look at some of the events, and wonder how many athletes from these countries might be gay, and unable to live their lives freely for fear of prison or death. That the UK tolerates this outrage by allowing these members to compete as friends and partners at the Games is a sad situation that we can only work towards changing.

We ask you, on behalf of those oppressed and in danger in countries such as Sri Lanka and Nigeria, to bear this in mind when thinking about the Commonwealth Games.

Meanwhile, we wish our Shetland and Scottish athletes and volunteers a happy, exciting and successful games.


Alex Wright & Kathy Hubbard

Chair & Treasurer, Amnesty International Shetland