Human-rights attorney Mark Stephens, whose clients include Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, says that LGBT athletes from homophobic countries should apply for asylum while they’re in England for the London Olympics this summer.
“I invite you to apply for asylum in this country on the grounds that you will face persecution at home if you are open about your sexual identity,” Stephens said Tuesday at a speech in the capital city. “The British government will have to hear your application and in doing so they will have to engage with the human-rights abuses perpetrated against the LGBT communities across the world.”
In 2010, the British government ruled that emigrants fleeing persecution in their homeland because of their sexual orientation could apply for asylum in the UK.
Stephens also called upon the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to support gay Olympians and censure countries that have laws against homosexuality. Same-sex acts between consenting adults are illegal in 78 of the 193 United Nations member states. In five countries—Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen— the death penalty is applied to those caught having same-sex relations.
And, yes, all five are sending athletes to the Games.
It’s a tough call: Certainly gay athletes should be able to apply for asylum—Soviet athletes used to do it all the time, and they weren’t even being persecuted.
But the IOC has always been happy to hold the Games in countries with detestable human-rights records, from Nazi Germany to Communist Russia.
Why should they start caring now?