British politicians speak out against the Bahrain F1

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Bahrain has written to Bernie Ecclestone saying: “We request you cancel the Grand Prix. It is likely to attract as much negative publicity as last year.” A full copy of the letter is available at this link.

The letter was announced at a press conference held in the House of Lords, hosted by the group’s chair Andy Slaughter and Lord Avebury, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group:

Formula 1: Driving Over the Rights of the Bahraini People

While Bahrain descends deeper into a political crisis, any remaining principles or values of human rights are being trampled upon by Formula 1 as they prepare to take the sport, yet again, to a country which at present, is a controversial and unsuitable location for any competition.  Two years ago, Bahrainis employed for this leg of the championship were tortured at the circuit. This year’s Grand Prix, scheduled for the 19th to 21st April 2013, will provoke more protests as the people continue to count the victims of the regime’s brutality. Mr Slaughter and Lord Avebury will present the case for cancelling this year’s F1 Championship in Bahrain, which is also under Saudi occupation.  F1 management insisted on holding last year’s Grand Prix and Bahrainis were killed, tortured and detained when they protested. Is a country which at present, is suppressing the human rights of its people and using sheer brute force to intimidate them, a place for sport or competition of any kind?

Ms Katy Clark MP, a member of the APPG for Democracy in Bahrain, spoke at the press conference. Yesterday, she tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons calling for a boycott of the F1:

BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX

That this House calls for a boycott of the forthcoming Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix on moral grounds, given the continued human rights abuses committed by the Bahrain government against its citizens as detailed by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other organisations; believes that if it went ahead, the race would be used by the Bahrain government to present a false image to the world; is concerned that the human rights situation has not improved since the 2012 race; notes that the Bahrain government has failed to implement reforms it pledged to enact in 2011; and further notes that the Bahrain government is keeping prominent human rights defenders and political activists behind bars and continues to suppress, injure and kill peaceful protestors with excessive tear gas and birdshot.

Activists have been encouraged to try and get their MPs to sign the EDM through the “Write To Them” website.

Lord Avebury calls for F1 boycott

Lord Avebury, Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, writes for Liberal Democrat Voice:

Bernie Ecclestone is an appropriate person to be the public face of Formula 1, a ‘sport’ which is fast becoming known as the event of choice for autocrats who wish to launder their international reputation, as evidenced by the appearance of races in Bahrain and Dubai in recent years.

Ecclestone famously praised Thatcher, Hitler and Saddam a few years ago, saying that he preferred strong leaders, that Hitler was a man who was ‘able to get things done’, and yet paradoxically, that politics ‘is not for me’.

(…)

If the race does go ahead this year, it will be the duty of the media to use it as the introduction to a closer scrutiny of Bahrain’s abysmal record on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. They should also look at Britain’s shameful friendship with this former colony of ours. We supplied them with their chief torturer Ian Henderson in the 1990s, and today they are regular buddies with the Queen and the Prime Minister. This doesn’t stack up with our claim to promote the freedoms we enjoy ourselves across the globe.

This is all a matter of indifference to Ecclestone. He reportedly told the Bahraini activist Alaa Shehabi last year that he wouldn’t mind if the race was cancelled, because he had already cashed the check from the Bahraini government. His priority is profit and he evinces no sign of concern about the suffering of those who have to pay the price for it.

Let’s hope that Bahrain will follow in the steps of South Africa, where the Formula 1 races were cancelled in 1985 amid rising international awareness of the moral bankruptcy of the Apartheid regime. Bahrain’s regime is equally discriminatory and corrupt, and deserves the same fate.