Syria’s military figures who are responsible for human rights abuses may be banned from visiting the UK during the Olympics, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said on Sunday, BBC News reported.
“As a government we have recently changed the rules about who we allow into this country and who we refuse entry to,” Clegg said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr program. “If there is evidence that you have abused human rights and that is independently shown to be the case, you will not be able to come into this country.”
Mowaffak Joumaa, the Syrian Olympic committee chairman, responded that the UK has “no right” to deny Syrian athletes or officials access to the London 2012 Olympic Games, Press TV reported.
“If the British government has decided to ban anyone connected to the regime and to President Bashar-al Assad, I am telling you in advance they should ban all Syrian citizens, because we all support President Assad and support Syria,” Joumaa said, according to BBC News.
The discussion of banning Syrian delegates from the Games comes amid fresh violence in the country, including the recent regime-backed massacre in Houla which left more than 90 people, including 32 children, dead, the Guardian reported. Syria denied any involvement in the massacre, according to the BBC.
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Clegg said that he found the “scenes of savagery” from Syria “revolting” and “stomach churning,” the Telegraph reported.
Before boarding a flight to Moscow Sunday, the UK’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said that all applications to come to the UK, during the Olympics and otherwise, are looked at “rigorously and vigorously,” according to BBC News.
Hague said that he would lobby Russia, Syria’s only major foreign ally, to put an end to the violence during his visit.
“We have already made it clear that if people try to come in where there is information linking them to serious human rights abuses, then we have the power to prevent them coming into the country,” Hague said. “We do have the power to prevent them entering the UK, even when the Olympics is on.”
Syria’s 11 athletes and 20 officials hoping to attend the games are still waiting for their visas, according to the Telegraph.
“The British people should not be worried about Syrians coming to the UK,” Joumaa said, the Telegraph reported. “You have seen how much Syria enjoys security and safety. We are a peaceful country. The Syrian people have love in their hearts for the British people.”
The London Games are set to begin July 27.