The British government will ban the president of the Syrian national Olympic committee (NOC), Mowaffak Joumaa, from entering the country to attend the Olympic games.
The former brigadier general was to lead his country's delegation to the event. His banning marks a victory for a campaign by Syrian activists and British parliamentarians – and it opens up the possibility of excluding other VIP thugs and criminals who were planning to turn up. Sadly, there's no shortage.
Don't preach, chaps!
Joumaa's exclusion (which sources in the British government today confirmed to Avaaz) is surprising because British ministers said they would consider such a move only if there was evidence to link a Syrian official with human rights violations or atrocities. Joumaa has no public record either of human rights abuses or of direct involvement in Syria's current unrest – though he does claim close friendship with Assad, saying that the president "has massive popularity in Syria".
It will be interesting to see what reason the UK government comes up with, especially given that the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt – under fire for his handling of the Murdoch BSkyB bid – has said the games are not an occasion for Britain "to preach about our values".
Why stop there?
Two key questions arise. The first: if this move sets a precedent, what about the rest of the Syrian delegation? It's said that all three officials accompanying the six Syrian athletes are close to the regime – especially the NOC secretary, Feras Mouala.
Second: what about human rights abusers elsewhere in the world? See this article exploring who else should be barred or even arrested for their offences – from Russian oligarchs to the Uzbek and Turkmen presidents.
Take action: An Avaaz member's campaign to ban the Bahraini NOC's president has gathered more than 8,000 signatures. Sign it here.