The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy has written to Jean Todt, president of Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, raising its concerns about alleged serious human rights violations in the country.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at Bird, said: “In the past five years, severe human rights violations have been committed during the race authorized by the FIA. These include arbitrary arrests, torture, and killings. Until now, the FIA have shirked responsibility and failed to use their leverage. We want to remind them of their responsibilities, which means being prepared to cancel the race in coming years.”


Bahrain urged freeing rights activists.

In 2012 human rights activists called for the race to be canceled. Several team members privately expressed discomfort as the race went ahead against a background of unrest and demonstrations in the country. Since then, the feeling in the paddock has settled down and felt safer because of intense security measures.

Formula One reverses human rights’ stance in the runup to Bahrain Grand.
The letter to Todt from Bird starts: We write to you regarding the serious human rights abuses in Bahrain about the Formula One race. As the President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, you are directly responsible for ensuring that due diligence procedures are implemented effectively to mitigate the circumstances in which human rights abuses occur in conducting the race.

Although Formula One has adopted a welcomed human rights policy, this does not distance the responsibility of the FIA of taking due diligence procedures.

“We note with disappointment and concern the FIA has followed no such process. We are further concerned that there has been a reluctance from the FIA to address these adverse human rights impacts caused as a result of the race since 2011.”

The letter continues: “Since 2011, the government of Bahrain has continued imprisoning and torturing those expressing dissent. It is widely recognized that the government response is characterized by the unlawful use of state violence, injuring hundreds of people. In 2015 Human Rights Watch exposed reform promises by the government as a ‘sham,’ and that torture was still widespread and systematic.”

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Todt was busy with meetings at the Sakhir Circuit and unavailable for comment. Alwadaei told the Guardian that he had not yet responded to his letter, which was sent on Thursday.