Human Rights Watch on Saturday criticised the decision to go ahead with the Bahrain Grand Prix on April 22, claiming it gives Bahrain’s rulers the opportunity "to obscure the seriousness of the country’s human rights situation".
The decision was announced on Friday by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and the Formula One Teams Association.
The event was cancelled in 2011 because of political unrest.
“Formula One promoters say their decision to race in Bahrain should not be derailed by political considerations, but the ruling family will attempt to portray the decision as a political statement of support for its repressive policies,” said Tom Porteous, deputy programme director at US-based Human Rights Watch.
“The FIA has played into the government’s narrative to gloss over Bahrain’s continuing human rights crisis.”
Anti-government protests have been on the rise in recent weeks, and cancellation of the F1 event had become a major demand of demonstrators.
HRW said activists in Bahrain have reported frequent incidents in recent weeks of security forces beating suspected protesters, as well as injuries and possibly deaths from excessive or improper use of teargas.
It added that Bahrain’s rulers have not fully carried out the key recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), a body of international rights experts who examined the human rights violations in connection with protests in February-March 2011.
HRW highlighted the case of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, now in the third month of a hunger strike, who is demanding freedom for himself and other opposition activists.
“Normal today in Bahrain means people like Abdulhadi al-Khawaja are still in prison more than a year after being arrested, serving long sentences, and no effort to hold accountable the officials responsible for last year’s killings and torture,” Porteous said.
“The Bahraini government will spin today's announcement as acceptance of this normality.”
Human Rights Watch urged the Formula One promoters to apply the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, issued in 2011.
Among other things, the guidelines urge enterprises to avoid contributing to adverse human rights impacts, and when they do, address these, and at all times to carry out appropriate human rights due diligence of their work.
“There is a human rights crisis in Bahrain and its rulers should be pressed to take immediate steps to end it including releasing political prisoners like al-Khawaja, allowing in groups like MSF, and fully carrying out the independent commission’s recommendations,” Porteous said.
“The FIA, having given a green light for the Grand Prix to be exploited for human rights harm, needs to take all the steps it can to redress the damage it has caused and make sure the Bahraini authorities implement the measures that are needed.”For all the latest sports news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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