Earlier this week, four NGOs wrote to FIA President Jean Todt and F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone, as well as all the teams, sponsors and broadcasters. The letter began:
We write in opposition to Formula One’s plans to hold a Grand Prix in Bahrain this year. If the race goes ahead,it will be taking place 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 excessive force with impunity, and opposition members have been stripped of their citizenship. Formula One should rethink its decision to support these practices by choosing to hold their race in Bahrain.
As just reported by the Daily Mail, Guardian and MSN Sport, responses have been received from both Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone. The responses are copied in full below.
From FIA President Jean Todt:
Thank you for your recent email regarding the staging of the FIA Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain.I take note of your concerns, and those expressed by the organizations you are linked to.
The FIA is a sporting and mobility federation, in charge of regulating motor sport worldwide as well as representing more than 80 million motorists in matters of road safety, sustainability and integrated transport systems. It is our firm belief that sport, and the F1 Grand Prix, can have a positive and healing effect in situations where conflict, social unrest and tensions are causing distress.
We thank you once more for your note.
With best wishes
From Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone:
It is a great shame that this was not brought to me before September 2012 when the FIA Formula One World Championship calendar was formed and it is now too late to make any changes to the calendar.
I have not received any complaints from any journalists concerning their accreditation to this year’s event.
Bernie Ecclestone’s line about journalists accreditation refers to a section of the letter where it was noted that last year, the Bahrain government “[denied] entry for journalists who wanted to see the reality on the ground,” and that “Foreign journalists were attacked, arrested, and even deported“. The responses avoided the substance of the letter almost entirely, such as the section relating the sacked and abused Bahraini Formula One workers:
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.