Thirty MPs have urged Formula One to ‘put people above profit and human rights above racing’ ahead of back-to-back races in Bahrain over the next two weekends.
In their letter, addressed to F1 chief executive Chase Carey, politicians have come-together to call upon the sport to implement its human rights policy, following concerns over Bahrain’s record.
Signatories including Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey and former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas have expressed a concern, as reported in The Independent, ‘that the Bahrain Grand Prix is exploited by Bahrain’s government to “sportswash” their human rights record.’
Bahrain will host back-to-back Formula One Grands Prix over the next two weekends
Yet MPs have urged F1 boss Chase Carey to implement the sport’s human rights policy
Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey (left) and former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas (right) are among the 30 MPs to have signed the letter
‘It’s deeply disappointing that we haven’t seen more progress from F1 when it comes to sportswashing and Bahrain’s human rights record,’ said Layla Moran MP, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson who sent the letter on behalf of the 30 signatories.
‘We can’t let human rights ever be a secondary consideration.
‘They must care for Bahrainis negatively impacted by the Grand Prix as much as they do for participants. We can’t let human rights ever be a secondary consideration.
‘That’s why we’re calling on Formula 1 to use its leverage to compel Bahrain to end the suppression of protests against the race, secure redress for victims and ensure the rights of Bahraini citizens are defended.’
MPs have a concern that the Bahrain Grand Prix is ‘exploited by Bahrain’s government to ‘sportswash’ their human rights record’
F1 made a promise in 2015 to respect human rights in operations around the world, following an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) complaint by Americans For Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), and Moran has called for Carey’s organisation to uphold that.
The letter follows world champion Lewis Hamilton’s recent comments that F1 can no longer ‘ignore’ the human rights records of countries the sport attends, following the addition of Saudi Arabia to the calendar next year.
For the first time since it first staged an F1 race in 2004, Bahrain will host back-to-back events this weekend as part of the truncated 2020 season, reorganised due to the coronavirus crisis.
Lucas added: ‘When F1’s most successful driver is speaking out about human rights, it is shameful that F1 is continuing to allow its Bahraini partners to ‘sportswash’ their abysmal human rights record.
Lewis Hamilton insists the sport can no longer ignore the human rights record of countries
‘It is people like Salah Abbas and her son Kameel who are paying the price for this. I hope this letter helps to spotlight the need for F1 to urgently intervene on their behalf ahead of this week’s races in Bahrain.’
Anti-government protestor Abbas was killed on the eve of the 2012 race following clashes with riot police.
Various human rights groups have criticised the event for years for enabling the Bahrain government to ‘sportswash’ its reputation, with prominent female activist Najah Yusuf jailed in 2017 for opposing the race on social media.
Human rights groups have criticised the race for allowing the Bahraini government to ‘sportswash’ their reputation
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), commented: ‘MPs have made a landmark call for Formula One to put people above profit and rights above racing.
‘Parliamentarians have amplified messages that human rights organisations have been spearheading for years: that F1 should not be used as a PR tool for countries where dissidents are thrown in prison and tortured.’
In a statement, the Bahraini government rejected claims of human rights abuses, saying: ‘Bahrain takes its obligations in this regard extremely seriously, and is committed to upholding and maintaining the highest standards of human rights protection, including the right to free expression.
‘Strong and effective constitutional and legal safeguards are in place to protect such rights and freedoms, with well-established, independent and transparent mechanisms to investigate and remedy (and where appropriate, prosecute) any shortcomings.
The Bahraini government rejected claims of human rights abuses in a statement
‘No person is arrested or prosecuted for the peaceful expression of their opinion, and all persons arrested (regardless of the charge) benefit from full due process safeguards, including the right to representation and the right to fair trial before Bahrain’s independent judiciary. Further, the claims of torture and/or retribution are categorically denied.’
In response to the letter, an F1 spokesperson commented: ‘We have always been clear with all race promoters and Governments with which we deal worldwide that we take violence, abuse of human rights and repression very seriously.
‘Our human rights policy is very clear and states that the Formula 1 companies are committed to respecting internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally and have made our position on human rights clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect human rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered.’