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MPs voice concern over F1's failure to act on human rights

NEWS STORY
25/11/2020

Despite the slogans, hashtags and virtue signalling, many are still concerned that when it comes to human rights, F1 continues to put profit first.

Ahead of this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, a group of thirty British MPs has written to Chase Carey warning him of the country's record on human rights and urging him to take action as opposed to merely words.

"It's deeply disappointing that we haven't seen more progress from F1 when it comes to 'sportswashing' and Bahrain's human rights record," Layla Moran MP, the Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson who sent the letter on behalf of the 30 signatories, told the Daily Mail.

"We can't let human rights ever be a secondary consideration," she continued. "They must care for Bahrainis negatively impacted by the Grand Prix as much as they do for participants. We can't let human rights ever be a secondary consideration.

"That's why we're calling on Formula 1 to use its leverage to compel Bahrain to end the suppression of protests against the race, secure redress for victims and ensure the rights of Bahraini citizens are defended."

The letter comes at a time seven-time world champion, Lewis Hamilton is making the headlines as much for his activism as his race-craft, and while the sport's bosses have been quick to latch on to the Briton's calls for action there has been little sign of any real commitment.

Indeed, it was recently confirmed that F1 is heading to Saudi Arabia next year with a street race in Jeddah. A country widely claimed to have a worse record on human rights than Bahrain.

"When F1's most successful driver is speaking out about human rights, it is shameful that F1 is continuing to allow its Bahraini partners to 'sportswash' their abysmal human rights record," said Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.

"It is people like Salah Abbas and her son Kameel who are paying the price for this," she added, referring to the anti-government protestor who was killed on the eve of the 2012 race. "I hope this letter helps to spotlight the need for F1 to urgently intervene on their behalf ahead of this week's races in Bahrain."

In response to the letter, the Bahraini government issued a brief statement:

"Bahrain takes its obligations in this regard extremely seriously," it read, "and is committed to upholding and maintaining the highest standards of human rights protection, including the right to free expression.

"Strong and effective constitutional and legal safeguards are in place to protect such rights and freedoms, with well-established, independent and transparent mechanisms to investigate and remedy (and where appropriate, prosecute) any shortcomings.

"No person is arrested or prosecuted for the peaceful expression of their opinion, and all persons arrested (regardless of the charge) benefit from full due process safeguards, including the right to representation and the right to fair trial before Bahrain's independent judiciary. Further, the claims of torture and/or retribution are categorically denied."

Speaking over the Turkish Grand Prix weekend, just days after the Saudi Arabia event was confirmed, Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal, president of the Saudi Arabian motorsport federation, reacted to Amnesty International's claim that the Jeddah race is an attempt to 'sportswash' the country's record on human rights.

"I know, I don't blame them," he said, when asked about the negative reaction to the event's announcement from many of those outside the sport. "When you don't know a country and when you have a certain image of a country... I remember myself when my parents used to tell me we were going to go to the US, especially to New York, I was frightened, I was thinking that I was going to walk the streets and somebody is going to come and shoot me, because I'd never been there.

"So I know why they're not excited about it, because of a lot of issues with the human rights, because they've never been to Saudi.

"That's why now for us opening up and hopefully people coming to Saudi Arabia and seeing the country and then going back and reporting what they saw, maybe this will make people change their mind and come.

"One of these issues, why we had this bad image, it was because we were closed," he admitted. "Our country is closed. So part of the vision and part of opening up our country is we would like people to come and see who we really are.

"We don't have anything to hide," he insisted. "If we want to 'sportwash' our image or something, we would close our country because we would not let you come and see and meet with our people."

The 30 MPs and Amnesty International will be even more concerned if rumours linking the Saudi's to a buy-out of the sport turn out to be true.

Liberty Media is rapidly discovering that F1 isn't the sport it thought it was buying and is therefore looking to sell, with the Saudis looking the most likely purchaser.

Of course, Bahrain, and the Abu Dhabi event that follows, are the only circuits on the 2020 schedule paying a hosting fee.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by jcr, 27/11/2020 0:38

"Curious what Tee Shirt Hamilton will wear at Anti Racism display before race. Up to now He has been out of step with everybody else by wearing a BLM Tee. And will the knee display happen."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by equator180, 26/11/2020 3:08

"Dear WOKE Layla Moran MP, what say you about the human cost you and your colleagues so gleefully pushed in Iraq? In Libya? In Syria? Or the bombs and arms sent to kill, mutilate and starve the Yemeni people? Check you own deeds before criticizing others. "

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3. Posted by Chris Roper, 26/11/2020 0:24

"The Countries with the bad ‘human rights’ or other issues need and want to get positive exposure. As such they are willing to pay over the top for it.

F1, on the other hand, needs to maximise income to pay dividends and shoe exponential capital growth. As modern economics works on the basis that profit is more important than Ethics, Customer Satisfaction or Sustainability, desperate countries will get races because they can pay.

Politicians know that Companies need the money and that Countries need the exposure. They are just blurting to get press coverage and publicity that is why the comments and targets are selective.

This year has shown why the old tracks and old ways worked better but the economics of greed and short term focus will ensure that nothing we learnt this year will be carried forward.

I don’t hate F1, I just hate the modern business attitude and the politicians who chirp but do nothing about it and are actually complicit.
"

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4. Posted by kenji, 26/11/2020 0:22

"Surely this latest outburst has gone too far!! Hot on the tail of the FIA's Gangakumaran's rant supporting the BLM Marxist group and F1's attention seeking cheerleader we are witnessing the not so invidious penetration of our sport/business by the the left and the 'alphabet people' on an ever increasing scale. This is wrong,wrong and wrong again.

We live in a democracy where everybody is entitled to an opinion but to have this completely one sided approach forced upon us by a minority is over the top. Especially where any reasoned debate is immediately shut down and labelled racist....amongst other less savory epithets!.

Should this latest hoo har gain increasing traction and support where it becomse incorporated into the F1 many followers will simply fade away. Those of us who entirely reject the very foundation of these issues as having any import within the F1 framework are left with very little alternative other than to cease watching and supporting F1. As far as these forthcoming races are concerned it is all too simple, arrive, race, depart. The host country is only a platform providing unique visual background effects."

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5. Posted by @R1Racing71, 25/11/2020 21:56

"The problem is that Mercedes, Ferrari and their ilk sell a lot of product in the Middle East.
Economics win every time I’m sorry to say.

"

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6. Posted by flyinglap, 25/11/2020 20:56

"Yes, right, that's what the sport needs, even more woke politics. Please, do bring Bernie back!"

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7. Posted by Kkiirmki, 25/11/2020 20:43

"Just an update to my original comment. I meant to say "aren't", in my first sentence. Should read: "Any reason why these MPs aren't targeting China either"?"

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8. Posted by Kkiirmki, 25/11/2020 19:59

"Any reason why these MPs are targeting China either? Nothing to do with them (China) being a major trading partner? This isn't just a problem in the UK either, lots of countries seem to turn a blind eye to China's terrible record of human rights abuses for the same reason."

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9. Posted by Lapps, 25/11/2020 18:25

"I really suggest you keep your political taint out of our sport. Remember you come from the organisation that previously sent us to war in another country very close to the one you are now targeting. Your reasons for the previous foray turned out to be BS (what WMD?). Why should we believe you now? Leave us alone."

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10. Posted by Greg, 25/11/2020 16:50

"Its the almighty $ talking as usual"

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11. Posted by Roli, 25/11/2020 16:17

"Absolutely agree. This is getting ridiculous. What next? A GP in Tehran? Never mind the abysmal way coloured people are discriminated on, what about all the poor people in Iran? The worst kind of Human Rights."

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