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Kissinger staying to sit as a member of the International Olympic Committee

19.01.2004 ( Last modified: 18.07.2017 )

IOC: Kissinger will remain a (dis)honorary member of the Committee    

Geneva – January 19 2004

During its December 2003 session, the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rendered the decision, of which TRIAL (Track Impunity Always) was recently informed, to shelve the request that Henry Kissinger be divested of the title of honorary member of the IOC. TRIAL and other organisations had filed a complaint on 11 September 2003 with the Ethics Commission of the IOC, considering that the actions with which Henry Kissinger was charged (including war crimes, accessory to murder and to genocide) were incompatible with the texts governing the IOC’s activity.


The complaint was filed by TRIAL, member of the Kissinger Out! (KO!) coalition, on the date of the 30 th anniversary of the Pinochet coup – which was supported by Henry Kissinger. This complaint, backed in Switzerland by, among others, the Chilean group “Comité Mémoire et Justice”,gave the details of the reasons for which the presence of Henry Kissinger as an honorary member of the IOC is incompatible with the principles of Olympism, such as they are set out in the IOC Charter and Code of Ethics.

The complaint stated – in detail – the different excessive, illegitimate or criminal actions carried out or instigated by Henry Kissinger. The information was based on various survey reports and on declassified archives demonstrating the murderous consequences of the former Secretary of State’s actions, including his responsibility in the Chilean, Cambodian or Timorese tragedies.

During its December 2003 session, the Executive Board approved the IOC Ethics Commission’s recommendation, according to which: “as the facts pre-date Mr. Kissinger election as an honorary member of the IOC and have never been the subject of a judicial decision binding upon the Ethics Commission, the Board decides not to pursue the complaint filed by TRIAL” .


TRIAL profoundly regrets this decision. The IOC evaded the lawyers’ association’s precise argumentation by ignoring the acts complained of on the basis that they had been committed before Henry Kissinger entered the organisation. TRIAL, not having been kept informed of the proceedings, can only wonder if the Ethics Commission entered into a real debate on the subject.

The “not caught, not guilty” reasoning suggests that the Commission hid behind a legal argument in order to avoid having to broach the question of Henry Kissinger’s presence at the IOC from an ethical point of view. Considering the criteria used, the IOC is giving out the following signal: “an individual with a criminal history can be admitted into the organisation as long as his behaviour after admission remains blameless; his past is of no consequence”.

“Such a line of reasoning means that the IOC is an organisation open to criminals. The former head of a gulag or the former chief of staff of a bloodthirsty African dictator could be admitted to the IOC without the latter considering that this poses an ethical problem”, says Philip Grant, President of TRIAL. “Ethics is not about to become an Olympic sport”, he added ironically.

For Ariel Sanzana, of the “Comité mémoire et justice”, the IOC’s position is outrageous. “If questions of corruption, influence peddling, nepotism and others are bad for the Olympic image, sheltering a war criminal and refusing to sanction him is even worse”, says Sanzana. Such behaviour can only serve to discredit the IOC and its so-called moral renewal.

The executive Board’s decision is not open to appeal. TRIAL therefore takes note of the fact that Henry Kissinger will remain a dishonorary member of the IOC. The international Kissinger Out! campaign shall nevertheless continue to denounce Henry Kissinger’s past dealings as well as the protection from which he benefits by continuing to sit on the boards of prestigious institutions. The Kissinger Out! campaign will be evaluating the possibilities of filing new complaints and requesting exclusion from other international institutions.

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