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3 Mar 2023

Bahrain & Saudi Arabia: NGO calls on F1 to establish independent inquiry into role of races in rights violations & adopt human rights policy; incl. cos. comment

The Bahrain International Circuit under floodlights during the 2014 Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Ahead of the start of the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Bahrain on 5 March, rights groups have written to the racing governing body to express concern over the hosting of races and "sportswashing" of states with poor rights records.

The Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy called on Formula 1 to establish an independent inquiry into how hosting its races in countries, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which have poor human rights records, may contribute to those rights violations. BIRD alleges Formula 1 is allowing both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to improve their standing on the world stage by being associated with the tournament.

Despite horrific human rights records, both states enjoy generous F1 contracts and exploit the F1 platform to sanitize their image on the world stage, while thousands of political prisoners languish behind bars.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, BIRD’s Advocacy Director

A group of UK MPs has also written to Formula 1 and FIA (the international governing body) to express similar concerns.

Formula 1 and FIA have provided comment in response which can be read in full in the CNN and MEE articles below.

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) has also called on Formula 1 to disclose human rights articles in contracts and asked the organisation to "use their platform to push for the release of political prisoners in Bahrain".

For decades Formula 1 has worked hard be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits. Sports like Formula 1 are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement. We take our responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on human rights and other issues clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect human rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered.”
Formula One
The FIA, as is the case with other international sporting federations, cannot interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state,” said an FIA spokesperson in a statement on Monday.