NGOs write to F1, teams, sponsors and broadcasters

Four NGOs sent a series of letters to Formula One, the teams, sponsors and broadcasters asking them to reconsider their participation in the Bahrain Grand Prix. All the letters can be read at this link.

The letter to sponsors reads in full:

Dear Sponsor and/or Partner of a Formula One team,

We are writing to ask you to withdraw your team sponsorship for the 2013 Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix.
Your corporate social responsibility should surely insist against supporting a race in a country whose
government continues to commit gross human rights violations, from arbitrary arrests to torture. Bahrain’s jails contain hundreds of political prisoners, police use excess force with impunity, and opposition members have been stripped of their citizenship.

Given the global controversy and public outcry, last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix was an embarrassment to all
those who promoted it. The race was used by the Bahrain government to broadcast a false picture of normality to the outside world, whilst also preventing entry to journalists who wanted to see the reality on the ground.

The 2012 race was held under conditions which effectively amounted to martial law. In the weeks preceding it, many activists and protest leaders were arrested, some of whom subsequently spent months in jail. Foreign journalists were attacked, arrested, and even deported. During the weekend of the race, a young man, Salah Abbas Habib, was shot dead by security forces. His body, bearing marks of torture, was dumped on a rooftop.

The situation in Bahrain has not improved since last year. If anything, it is getting worse. The Bahrain
government has made many pledges of reform, but it is doing nothing to implement them. In November 2012, a report by the Project on Middle East Democracy found that only three of the twenty-six recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry have been fully implemented. In the same month, Amnesty International released a report describing the human rights situation in Bahrain as, “Reform shelved, repression unleashed”. In February 2013, Human Rights Watch visited Bahrain and found there to be “no progress on reform”. In the same month, police killed two protesters.

The race is scheduled to take place at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) on 21 April 2013. In 2011, at the height of the government crackdown, many permanent members of BIC staff were dismissed from their jobs, arrested and tortured. To date, there has been no justice for these Formula One workers. By continuing to race on this track, Formula One is facilitating the culture of impunity through which the authorities have operated.

Many people in Bahrain no longer see Formula One as a sport, but as an organisation which supports a
repressive regime. If this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix takes place, the event will certainly be hijacked by the
government for political purposes. There are also serious concerns that the government will unleash further
repression to try and silence critics of the race. Already, there are documented reports that a crackdown has
begun in villages near the track. We urge you to take a stand and cancel your sponsorship arrangements for this race.

Sincerely,

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Press Association (BPA)
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)

 

Update: April 16th 2013 – The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has also expressed their support for the letters as a fifth signatory.

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Bahrain activists release video: “No for the bloody Formula 1”

Bahraini activists opposed to the Formula 1 released a video, saying to the world: “Don’t race on our blood.” The video opens with a masked activist sat contemplating the race whilst holding a Bahrain flag. Shots from previous races are interspersed with footage of mass demonstrations and violence by security forces. He stands, points to the spectator and declares (in English): “You are racing over Bahraini’s blood!” He is followed by a series of activists who express a similar message, including human rights defender Jihan Kazerooni and Sayed Fadhel Shams, brother of Ahmad Shams, who was shot dead by police in 2011 aged just 15.

 

NGOs launch campaign to highlight human rights abuses in Bahrain

A group of NGOs, led by Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), launched a campaign to “raise awareness of the ongoing human rights abuses in Bahrain”. From the press release:

ADHRB and participating organizations sent a letter to Formula One drivers asking them to pledge their support for a free and just Bahrain by publicly condemning the ongoing human rights abuses. Drivers are encouraged to state their support during interviews at the Grand Prix, publish a statement on their website, express their solidarity via social media, or publicly dedicate their race to one of the many prisoners of conscience still imprisoned in Bahrain.

“While in Bahrain, we hope that participants of the Bahrain Grand Prix will take the time to learn about the ongoing human rights abuses and arbitrary detention of prisoners of conscience,” said ADHRB Director Husain Abdulla. “Although the President of Formula One, Bernie Ecclestone, said that he received reports that everything is back to normal in Bahrain, it is clear that his information comes from unreliable sources,” Abdulla added. “The truth is that the Bahrain government has been engaged in many of the same abuses that the international community condemned it for after Bahrain’s security forces launched a brutal crackdown against peaceful protests in 2011.”

The letter was signed by ADHRB, along with International Federation for Human RightsFreedom HouseHuman Rights First, Just Foreign PolicyPhysicians for Human Rights, and the Project on Middle East Democracy. It includes a table with details on some of Bahrain’s prisoners of conscience. Drivers are invited to: “publicly dedicate your race to one of the many prisoners of conscience held under lock and key for exercising their rights to free speech, expression, association, and assembly.”

Alongside the letter, the NGOs also launched a Twitter campaign, encouraging people to tweet to the drivers, teams and other relevant people using the hashtag #ReformsF1rst. A spreadsheet of Twitter handles is available to download at this link.