HR Groups Accuse F1 of "Turning Blind Eye" over Bahraini Activist's Jailing in Bahrain
2019-03-06 - 8:28 م
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Formula One has been accused of "looking the other way" by human rights groups in the case of an activist who was beaten, sexually abused and jailed for protesting against the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Guardian newspaper revealed in November that Formula One admitted to having "concerns" about Yusuf's case. However, in a letter to Human Rights Watch and the Bahraini Institute of Rights and Democracy (Bird) on Monday, F1 said it had been assured Yusuf's conviction "had nothing to do with peaceful protest around the Bahrain grand prix".
In a letter seen by the Guardian, it added the Bahrain government had also promised: "Anyone who merely criticized or continues to criticize Formula 1 in Bahrain is free to do so."
F1's willingness to accept the word of the Bahraini regime has infuriated human rights groups, who point out the court judgment against Yusuf said she had written "no to Formula races on occupied Bahraini land" in one post, while in another she claimed F1 coming to her country was "nothing more than a way for the [ruling] al-Khalifa family to whitewash their criminal record and gross human-rights violations".
Aya Majzoub of Human Rights Watch said F1 was guilty of "looking the other way" and was "complicit in Bahrain's attempted use of the grand prix to whitewash those abuses". He added: "Taking the Bahraini government's assurances that no punitive measures will be directed against activists for peacefully opposing the grand prix is absurd given Bahrain's track record of repressive measures to close down protests opposing the races in the country."
Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei, the director of advocacy at Bird, said he was stunned at F1's response and said it was sending the world an "appalling message that its supposed commitment to human rights in reality means nothing" just weeks before the 2019 Bahrain grand prix.
Meanwhile MP Lord Scriven told the Guardian he would be pressing Yousif's case with senior F1 figures next week. He added: "It is clear the senior people running F1 are not taking their responsibilities seriously in dealing with human rights abuses that are a direct result of the Bahrain grand prix. The case of Najah exemplifies this. F1 are happy to be a fig leaf for the Bahraini authorities who use the grand prix to portray a picture to the world that hides the systematic human rights abuses of those who wish to stand up and have true freedom of expression.
"If F1 leaders won't deal with human rights abuses that are directly linked to their sporting events, then maybe it's time to take the case direct to the sponsors, teams and individual drivers."
The Bahrain regime insists it has a "zero-tolerance" towards mistreatment of any kind. In a statement in November, it said: "Najah Yusuf's conviction is a matter for Bahrain's courts. No one is detained for expressing their political views."
However, human rights groups also claim the Bahrain regime has a record of trying to punish its critics, most notably the footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi, who fled to Australia in 2014 but was detained on his honeymoon in Thailand in November at the request of Bahraini authorities and held for almost three months.