Traditionally, dictators are given box seats to the Olympics’ Opening Ceremonies. Those box seats allow brutal authoritarian leaders to grandstand on the world stage and whitewash their image internationally.
We’re asking the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to leave an Empty Box where those dictators would normally sit.
These dictators and despots rule their countries without regard for democratic norms or human rights. Between them, they are responsible for the worst crimes against humanity happening today. This list was arrived at based on a combination of the Human Rights Foundation's political regime classifications, a determination of countries with the highest number of Olympic athletes, and other troubling indicators, including lack of political rights and press freedoms.
Directs the brutal crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, orchestrates the Uyghur genocide, imposes the severe erosion of human rights in Tibet, exports digital authoritarianism, uses extravagant Olympics to whitewash human rights abuses.
Poisons opponents, disregards international borders, changes the constitution regularly to suit his needs, crushes free speech, and funds evil around the world.
Heir apparent and de facto ruler who has made extrajudicial killings, military attacks on civilians, unjust imprisonments, and torture of activists and journalists a hallmark of his rule.
Lost an election but refuses to relinquish power, reigns over a criminally corrupt regime widely accused of narco-terrorism, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, and gross negligence in the face of food shortages.
Military junta leader responsible for the recent coup and attempted genocide against Rohingya Muslims, weaponizing rape, torture and arson against civilians, and stifling any form of dissent.
Stamps out dissent by imprisoning or disappearing opponents, aims to rewrite Rwanda’s history (including erasing his own crimes), uses his status as the “darling dictator” to get away with gross human rights violations.
Longest ruling (non-royal) leader in the world (thanks to a habit of rigging elections), has a long history of violence, particularly against women, crushing peaceful dissent, and using arrests to silence the opposition.
Has promised human rights reform but no sign of it yet amid the ongoing imprisonment and torture of dissidents, public displays of corporal punishment, executions, and a medieval approach to women’s rights.
Oversees brutal security forces that torture, disappear, and imprison thousands, with a particular focus on LGBTQ+ people, women’s rights activists, dissidents, and even comedians — clearly can’t take a joke.
Restricts freedom of expression, religion, and the press, maintains state control over the judiciary, regularly harasses and imprisons bloggers and activists.
Raúl Castro’s handpicked successor, following the Revolution’s 60-year-old playbook of repressing dissent and relying on arbitrary detention to harass and intimidate critics and activists.
The driving force behind the dramatic erosion of democracy and the rule of law in Turkey, with an affinity for muzzling the press and using courts to detain and convict his political opponents.
Started a war in Nagorno-Karabakh, causing the death of thousands of civilians and the displacement of over a hundred thousand more. Stokes ethnic hatred, censors journalists, jails activists, and tortures critics.
With no national elections, no legislature, no independent judiciary, civil society, or press, has an easy path to repressing his people through forced labor and conscription, and by restricting freedom of speech and belief.
Touted hollow reforms, yet is overseeing what may amount to war crimes in the Tigray region and the resulting humanitarian catastrophe, in addition to a habit of arbitrary arrests and violent crackdowns on all forms of protest.