Mowaffak Joumaa used to be a brigadier general in the Syrian military. Today, as the international community condemns Syria's bloody massacre in Houla, Joumaa is chairman of the Syrian Olympic Committee – and the prospective figurehead of Syria's delegation to the London 2012 Olympics.
The idea of someone so close to the murderous Syrian regime enjoying British hospitality and basking in the glow of Olympic togetherness has caused more than a few stomachs to churn. British officials have hinted that they may block Joumaa from entering the country altogether. It's a step in the right direction. But why stop there?
You're not welcome, mate
As far as Syria and the Olympics goes, the signs look good that the UK will act. Earlier this week, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg suggested that the UK may ban those guilty of human rights abuses. “For the first time," he said, "we are saying, if there's evidence that you have abused human rights, and that's independently shown to be the case, you will not be able to come into this country." Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt repeated the message in a weekend interview: “Senior military figures attempting to come to the United Kingdom will have to pass a test that their presence here is conducive to the public good.”
Joumaa has hit back, telling the BBC that a ban would violate Britain’s obligations under the Olympic charter. But host nations ultimately hold authority over immigration rules, and the International Olympic Committee has already (wisely) distanced itself from Syria. Since the outbreak of conflict, the IOC has been sending funding directly to a handful of Syrian Olympic athletes, bypassing Joumaa and the national committee.
Let's go further
But why stop there? An Avaaz member is already petitioning the UK to ban a member of the Bahrain delegation who has been linked to the arrest of athletes critical of the regime. Russian dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky has urged Britain to exclude members of Russia’s delegation who are on the so-called “Magnitsky List”, which names officials implicated in the 2009 murder of an outspoken lawyer.
Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov and and Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov have also been suggested as potential candidates for exclusion, because of well-documented human rights abuses in both those countries. And even greater sanctions are available – Afghanistan was banned from the 2000 Sydney Olympics, because the Taliban would not allow women to take part in any sports.
Take action: Sign this petition to prevent Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al Khalifa of Bahrain attending the London 2012 Olympics. And tell us in the comments below who else you think should be banned.