Human Rights Watch: F1 Ignores Rights Abuses Ahead of Race

In a statement issued earlier today, NGO Human Rights Watch called attention to the continued human rights abuses in Bahrain and the failure of the government to implement promised reforms. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said:

Bahrain is already tightening the lid on protest as the Formula 1 race grows near. The Formula 1 organizers apparently prefer to bury their heads in the sand, risking holding their race against repression it has provoked.

The inconvenient reality for Formula 1 organizers is that their event in Bahrain has become a focal point for popular discontent, with abuses against protesters ratcheting up in a country that has become notorious for them, and is unwilling or unable to implement meaningful reforms. And those who care about Formula 1 officials should care that human suffering and repression is tainting their sport.

 

Human Rights Watch reports on security crackdown

Following BCHR’s report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report stating that Bahrain “authorities are carrying out home raids and arbitrarily detaining opposition protesters”. The NGO determined this after speaking to local sources:

The sources told Human Rights Watch that groups of masked, plainclothes police officers have been conducting targeted night-time and dawn raids in the towns around the motor racing circuit. Twenty people, including prominent anti-government protest leaders, have been arrested. Arresting officers have failed to produce arrest, search, or seizure warrants, the sources said, although these are required by Bahraini law. Officials have also denied those detained access to legal assistance during their initial formal interrogation by prosecutors.

(…)

Prosecutors have charged at least two of those arrested with crimes under national security and counterterrorism laws, and authorized their detention for another 60 days while investigations continue. Others, whom prosecutors have charged with participating in illegal gatherings, face another 45 days in detention. In addition to the raids, authorities have detained at least seven people at a series of temporary checkpoints they have established on roads leading to the F1 track. The father of one of those detained told Human Rights Watch that a group of about 10 masked, armed men in civilian clothes arrived at his family’s home in Madinat in the early morning hours of April 3. They said they were police and were looking for his 17-year-old son, whom they arrested and took away. But, the father said, they showed no identification and did not present either search or arrest warrants. Nine marked police cars arrived to back up the masked men, although no uniformed officers left their cars to assist in the arrest.

Local sources say that this raid was similar to others the police have conducted over recent days in localities close to the F1 circuit. In one of the latest, plainclothes police detained a prominent protest leader at his home in Shahrakan at 2 a.m. on April 8.

Human Rights Watch also noted that “protests around the country have increased” which has “resulted in serious injuries to anti-government demonstrators”.

The Bahrain government refuted the claims. Sameera Rajab, the Information Minister and official government spokesperson, said:

We discredit any news of such arrests in recent days or even months. Nobody could be arrested without a warrant. This doesn’t happen in Bahrain.