Photo: Used with permission of the Martin Ennals Foundation

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia

Formula 1: Stop sportswashing human rights abuses in Bahrain

Formula 1 should stop sportswashing human rights abuses in host countries such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and instead use its considerable leverage to push for the release of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders and an end to the repression of civic freedoms, says ISHR and a coalition of over 20 NGOs.

In an open letter to Formula 1 chief Stefano Domenicali ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix on 3 March, ISHR has joined with over 20 leading civil society organisations to raise serious concerns over F1’s ongoing role in “sportswashing” amidst a deterioration in Bahrain’s human rights situation. Bahraini authorities are imprisoning its population at the highest rate of any country in the MENA region, while Bahraini political prisoners remain behind bars and some face imminent execution in violation of international law.

Together with partners, ISHR condemns Bahraini law that criminalises peaceful protest and severely curtails freedom of speech, eliminating any space for those who wish to exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of assembly, expression and opinion. 

The open letter makes a number of concrete calls and recommendations, including that:

  1. F1 commission an independent inquiry to investigate human rights violations linked to F1 activities in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, with a complaints mechanism to allow victims to report abuses;
  2. F1 use all available leverage and its relationship with Bahraini authorities to publicly and privately call for the release of political prisoners and human rights defenders in Bahrain, including Abdulhadi Alkhawaja; and
  3. F1 publicly call on host countries to respect human rights to freedom of expression and assembly, as well as the right to defend rights. 
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