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Head in the sand: Human rights organisations blast F1 for ignoring Bahrain Grand Prix concerns

The Formula One race is set to go ahead this Sunday amid rising tensions and anti-government protests

A woman in Barbar, Bahrain enters a house, where the outer walls are spayed with anti Grand Prix graffiti
A woman in Barbar, Bahrain enters a house, where the outer walls are spayed with anti Grand Prix graffiti
Image: Hasan Jamali/AP/Press Association Images

FORMULA ONE TEAMS have passed the buck to the FIA (International Automobile Federation) as pressure mounts on the Bahrain Grand Prix to be cancelled.

Williams, Red Bull and Catherham F1 have all stated that the final decision on suitable venues for the Formula One circuit rests with the FIA.

The three teams were the only ones, out of 10 teams competing this year, to respond to concerns directly raised by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre about the race.

Protesters believe that any staging of a global sporting event in Bahrain, such as this Sunday’s Grand Prix, would be an endorsement of the current government.

Last year’s race was cancelled after prominent F1 names, such as Damon Hill and Mark Webber, raised their concerns over safety and human rights violations in the Gulf State. Press Association has reported that this year’s protests have left ‘nearly 50 dead’.

There has been daily protests in Bahrain in the lead-up to the race, with police forces clashing with protesters. Four mechanics from Force India were reported to have been caught up in a firebomb attack on Wednesday night.

Low response rate

The Human Rights Resource Centre  contacted 42 companies and teams that are involved in Formula One.

Only 29% of those contacted by the London based organisation responded. STR-Ferrari and McLaren were two of the leading teams that did not reply; nor did Pirelli, Dell, Allianz or Siemens – amongst others.

A statement from Red Bull Racing read:

As a race team we entered the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship, which is dictated by the FIA, the sport’s governing body.  For every round of the Championship, we rely on the information and guidance that’s offered to us, and all teams, by the FIA.

“The FIA has confirmed that the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix will take place this weekend and so we will be there to race,” the statement concluded.

Mercedes/Daimler, owners of the Mercedes Grand Prix team, commented: “As a registered competitor in the Formula One world championship, we are contractually obligated to compete in every round of the championship with two cars.”

Promised reforms

Kirsty Hughes, Chief Executive of Index on Censoriship – a leading human rights organisation – commented, “It is disappointing to see Sponsors of Formula One ignore the implications of this weekend’s race.

“Until the government shows a real commitment to reforms promised in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report, international events such as the Bahrain Grand Prix should not proceed,” she added.

Companies that did get back to resource centre include Microsoft, Vodafone, CNN and Johnny Walker/Diageo.

A group of MPs in Britain launched a cross-party campaign on Wednesday calling for the Grand Prix to be halted due to ‘huge concerns over abuse of human rights expressed by Amnesty International and others’.

Force India caught in Bahrain firebomb attack

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