Today, on 27 March 2019, the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), together with fourteen other NGOs, has co-signed a letter to Jean Todt, President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), ahead of the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix.
This letter intends to put under the spotlight the continuous infringements of human rights and press freedom violations which have been occurring in Bahrain, with rapt attention to the people protesting the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix. Given the public resonance of this event, protests “calling for political reforms” have spread throughout the years, as well as measures of reprisal by the authorities. Our shared concern goes to the reporters and human rights activists, including the precarious situation of Bahraini activist Najah Yusuf and freelance photographer Ahmed Humaidan, who have been arbitrarily arrested and endured ill-treatment due to their activism related to the race.
In 2015, Formula One has issued a Statement of Commitment to Respect for Human Rights, whose first article asserts that “The Formula 1 companies are committed to respecting internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally.” In this regard, last November Formula One has expressed concern over the imprisonment of Ms. Yusuf. This reaction was rather lukewarm. Therefore, last February, the ECDHR drafted another joint letter with sixteen like-minded NGOs to Sacha Woodward-Hill, General Counsel of Formula One, to raise awareness of the abuses Ms. Yusuf was subjected to. On 4 March 2019, Formula One officially replied with in a rather unprecise way, which huge defaults to the narrative provided by the Government of Bahrain and which actually stated that the arrest of Ms. Yusuf “had nothing to do with the protest around the Bahrain Grand Prix.” The ECDHR is highly disappointed by this reply.
In light of these observations, with this letter we encourage Formula One to call for Ms. Yusuf and Mr. Humaidan’s immediate and unconditional release and to send a delegation from both Formula One (F1) and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) leaders to visits Ms. Yusuf and Mr. Humaidan in Isa Town Prison and Jau Prison.