The Russian authorities need to address a deteriorating situation of widespread and concerted abuse against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and activists. The authorities’ failure to act and some officials’ homophobic comments expose LGBT people to further harassment and violence and embolden the attackers.

As the host to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, which begin on February 7, 2014, in Sochi, Russia should act in accordance with the principle of nondiscrimination, a core provision of the Olympic Charter. As a member of the Council of Europe, and party to multiple human rights treaties, it should meet its obligations to provide equal respect and protection for LGBT people.

“The Russian authorities have the power to protect the rights of LGBT people, but instead they are ignoring their responsibility to do so,” said Tanya Cooper, Russia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “By turning a blind eye to hateful homophobic rhetoric and violence, Russian authorities are sending a dangerous message as the world is about to arrive on its doorstep for the Olympics that there is nothing wrong with attacks on gay people.”