Below is an uncorrected transcript of British MP Andy Slaughter’s comments at the press conference on the Bahrain Grand Prix at the House of Lords on Tuesday, April 16th. Mr Slaughter MP is the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Bahrain and he hosted the press conference, along with Lord Avebury.
We are often asked why is a Grand Prix, a Formula One, which is raced all over the world, is of particular significance in Bahrain.
Bahrain is a small country of 1.2million people. It took part in the Arab Spring but the revolution was crushed by foreign intervention through the Saudi invasion dressed up as the Gulf Co-operation Council and the country has effectively been locked down since.
A hundred people have been killed. In the context of a small country this is very significant. All the methods of repression used by the dictatorship are being used in Bahrain including deprivation from freedom of speech and assembly, torture and imprisonment without trial and on trumped up charges. Some of this has been given widespread publicity such as the trial of the doctors who treated protesters.
The grand prix was cancelled two years ago. It was not cancelled last year. It doesn’t look as if it is going to be cancelled this year but essentially nothing has changed in relation to Bahrain and the statements that come out from the Formula One people. They have been particularly bizarre this year saying that there is nobody demonstrating which is clearly not true. This has been quoted in Daily Telegraph.
The grand prix is of particular importance because it is being used by the regime to normalise the situation. Of course there are other oppressive countries around the world but there is a particular role which the grand prix plays in this small country which is to appear to legitimise to provide an income for the regime and ironically at the same time it is an agent for greater repression because clearly during the week of the grand prix there are protests – usually peaceful protests. The response to this is to lock down the villages and the country in its entirety. This is not a neutral event. This is an event which leads to greater repression in the country where it is being held. Secondly the event is used as a public relations exercise to cover up what is happening there.
The Bahraini regime, unlike other regimes in the Middle East, does pay attention to its international reputation. It employs many public relations agencies. It wishes to maintain good relations with the West. Unfortunately our government does not have a good record here. It tends to defend rather than condemn the abuses that take place in Bahrain and it continues to sell arms to Bahrain. Delegates went to Bahrain last month with that objective.
It is for those reasons that we believe there is particular significance to the grand prix being held in Bahrain and that is it is totally inappropriate. The All Party Group has written to Mr Ecclestone asking whether they are happy to be associated with Bahrain given the abuses of human rights that are being committed in the country. We have pointed that world brand leading companies pay a great deal of money to be associated with formula one and in the process they are associating themselves with a regime that murders its citizens.
We believe that they would agree that there is a corporate responsibility that goes wider than their shareholders and that is why we ask them as well as the organisers of formula one to withdraw support.