Joint Letter to FIA: On the eve of the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix, NGOs call for the end of sportswashing and the release of human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja

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1st of March, 2023 – Several NGOs from across Europe signed a Joint Letter to FIA under the initiative of the European Center for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), expressing serious concerns on the eve of the Formula 1 (F1) Grand Prix in Bahrain, about the country’s inhumane treatment of human rights defenders and the worrying situation of award-winning human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.

With this letter, many questions have been raised regarding the case of Mr. Al-Khawaja, in particular how his arrest is considered arbitrary, as it resulted from him exercising his rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. The letter also raised the issue of Mr. Al-Khawaja’s treatment in Jau Prison, as throughout his incarceration, he has been subjected to various forms of abuse, including torture, beatings, verbal abuse, threats of sexual assault and long periods of solitary confinement, as well as him being denied adequate medical attention and banned from receiving in-person visits from his family.

Moreover, the NGOs underline how the Bahraini governments attach great importance to mega-sporting events such as the Formula 1 Grand Prix and link them with its progressive discourse and façade reforms, as ‘sports whitewashing’ has been one of the Bahraini government’s most significant tool used to cover up the political and human rights situation in the country, and how the Formula 1 Grand Prix has been an immense help for them in improving their tarnished image by gaining more positive attention,  especially in the West.

Finally, profound disappointment has been expressed over: FIA’s unwillingness to see past the portrayal of the political situation in the country provided by Bahraini authorities, and acknowledge the  actual political realities in the country; FIA’s failure to condemn human rights violations in Bahrain; the maintaining of the long-lasting contract between F1 and the country; the ‘no politics’ policy introduced by the revisions made to the International Sporting Code, a decision which equals to turning a blind eye on the dire situation of human rights in Bahrain.

The letter was signed by: the  European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), Avocats Sans Frontières France (ASF France), Protection International, FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, LDH (Ligue des droits de l’Homme), The Center for Advocacy and Human Rights (CADO), Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

Find Here the joint letter to FIA