(Beirut) – International racing bodies responsible for scheduling the Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix from April 19 to 21, 2013, have taken no steps to address human rights abuses that appear to be directly linked to the event. Bahraini security forces killed a protester during the 2012 Grand Prix and have increased their repressive actions in the lead-up to the 2013 race.
In recent weeks, security forces have conducted home raids in the vicinity of the race circuit and arbitrarily arrested and detained opposition figures. Protesters have indicated they will demonstrate against the Grand Prix, with the risk that the Bahraini authorities will use repressive measures to close down the protests.
“Bahrain is already tightening the lid on protest as the Formula 1 race grows near,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Formula 1 organizers apparently prefer to bury their heads in the sand, risking holding their race against repression it has provoked.”
Human Rights Watch said it was unaware of any public comment by Formula 1 organizers about the recent spate of security force abuses near the race site.
Race authorities also have failed to consider the impact of the event on Bahrain’s ongoing human rights violations, Human Rights Watch said. The Bahraini authorities regularly imprison peaceful demonstrators and human rights defenders, and security forces use excessive and at times deadly force against protesters. The authorities have failed to investigate and prosecute high-level officials responsible for serious human rights violations.
Since large-scale protests began in 2011, abuses by security forces have resulted in the death of scores of protesters and bystanders, serious injuries to hundreds of people, arrests of thousands more, and more than 300 formal allegations of torture and ill-treatment. In February, Human Rights Watch concluded, based on discussions with officials, that authorities have made no progress in investigating and prosecuting higher-level officials responsible for the worst abuses during the 2011 protests.
On May 26, 2011, Human Rights Watch wrote to the chairs of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile and the Formula One Teams Association, Jean Todt and Martin Whitmarsh respectively, to urge that they and their member organizations take into account the severe human rights crisis in Bahrain and consult the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Human Rights Watch has not been able to determine that either body has taken any steps to assess the ramifications of their current involvement in Bahrain.
Responding to the news media about abuses by the government during the 2012 race, Todt said: “We know protests can have a negative result. We are a governing body running sport, you can have lots of protests and there can be consequences, and I am not sure the protests would not have happened if the Grand Prix would not have happened.”
During protests that took place on April 21 during the 2012 Grand Prix, Bahraini security forces killed Salah Abbas Habib, a protester, in the town of Shakhoura. A November 2012 report by the Bahrain Government on the anniversary of the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report concluded that Habib “was arrested and assaulted, and then shot with