(Geneva) - The Ethics Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should articulate human rights standards for host countries to end the moral void in which it operates, Human Rights Watch said in a letter released today. The IOC, which is scheduled to hold meetings in Beijing from April 1 to April 12, has refused to publicly articulate concerns about the human rights situation in China.

The refusal of the IOC to dissociate itself from the abuses directly linked to the preparation of the Beijing Games is undermining human rights in China and flouting the spirit and the letter of the Olympic Charter, Human Rights Watch said.

“The question isn’t whether the IOC is a human rights organization,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch. “It’s whether the Olympic movement respects human rights. If it does, remaining silent as China’s crackdown intensifies isn’t acceptable.”

The IOC has not spoken publicly about a wide variety of human rights abuses in China, including: ongoing restrictions on foreign media that violate China’s formal commitment made to win the right to host the Games; the jailing of two civil rights activists who criticized the Beijing Olympics, Yang Chunlin and Hu Jia, on charges of state subversion; and the decision to carry the Olympic torch relay through Tibet despite an ongoing crackdown on ethnic Tibetans, a military lockdown of the region, and a denial by the Chinese authorities to allow an international commission of inquiry to go to Tibet.

The letter urged the Ethics Commission, an independent body in charge of elaborating ethical principles based on the values and principles enshrined in the Olympic Charter, to articulate standards compatible with the respect of human rights to guide the Olympic movement. Human Rights Watch is also urging the IOC to publicly assess the extent to which current human rights violations linked to the preparation of the Games were violating the commitments made by China at the time of its bid to host the Olympic Games, and to establish a standing mechanism to address human rights concerns.

According to the IOC rules, the principles elaborated by the Ethics Commission must be respected by the IOC and its members, by the cities wishing to organize the Olympic Games, by the Organizing Committees of the Olympic Games, by National Olympic Committees as well as by the participants in the Olympic Games.

“The IOC seems determined to take the Chinese government’s line – that human rights are a political matter and shouldn’t be discussed,” said Richardson. “But that’s inconsistent with the Olympic movement’s original aim of fostering ‘respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.’ If the IOC does not find its public voice now, will it ever?”