Bahrain Institute raises concerns of human rights abuse with FIA


Bird: ‘Human rights violations have been committed during F1 race’
Letter to FIA claims governing body has not done enough to address the issue

Lewis Hamilton, the Mercedes diver, poses in Arabic dress before the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix. Photograph: Lars Baron/Getty Images
Lewis Hamilton, the Mercedes diver, poses in Arabic dress before the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix. Photograph: Lars Baron/Getty Images

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy has written to Jean Todt, president of Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, raising its concerns about alleged serious human rights violations in the country.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at Bird, said: “In the past five years severe human rights violations have been committed during the race authorised by the FIA. These include arbitrary arrests, torture and killings. Until now the FIA have shirked responsibility and failed to use their leverage. We want to remind them of their responsibilities, which means being prepared to cancel the race in coming years.”

In 2012 human rights activists called for the race to be cancelled. A number of team members privately expressed feelings of discomfort as the race went ahead against a background of unrest and demonstrations in the country. Since then the feeling in the paddock has settled down, and felt safer, because of intense security measures.

The letter to Todt from Bird starts: “We write to you regarding the serious human rights abuses in Bahrain in relation to the Formula One race. As the President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, you are directly responsible to ensure that due diligence procedures are implemented effectively to mitigate the circumstances in which human rights abuses occur in the process of conducting the race.

“Although a welcomed human rights policy has been adopted by Formula One, this does not distance the responsibility of the FIA of taking due diligence procedures.

“We note with disappointment and concern no such process has been followed by the FIA. We are further concerned that there has been a reluctance from the FIA to address these adverse human rights impacts caused as a result of the race since 2011.”

The letter continues: “Since 2011 the government of Bahrain has continued imprisoning and torturing those expressing dissent. It is widely recognised that the government response is characterised by the unlawful use of state violence, injuring hundreds of people. In 2015 Human Rights Watch exposed reform promises by the government as a ‘sham’ and that torture was still widespread and systematic.”

Todt was busy with meetings at the Sakhir Circuit and unavailable for comment. Alwadaei told the Guardian that he had not yet had a response to his letter, which was sent on Thursday.

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