Ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain GP, Amnesty International have released a 76 page report which outlines that “rampant human rights abuse abuses continue unabated,” in the Gulf state.
Four years on from the ‘Arab Spring’ and the uprising which rocked Bahrain in 2011 this major new report which details dozens of current cases of appalling treatment by the Bahraini regime to detainees. Brutal beatings, torture with slowly administered cigarette burns, week long sleep deprivation, sexual assaults, and electric shock treatment administered to the genital regions and one prisoner was burnt continually with an iron. Another detainee was raped and had plastic pipes inserted into his anus.
Detentions are often arbitrary and the excessive use of force by the regime’s enforcers is widespread.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Said Boumedouha states:
“As the world’s eyes fall on Bahrain during the Grand Prix this weekend, few will realise that the international image the authorities have attempted to project of the country as a progressive reformist state committed to human rights masks a far more sinister truth.
“Four years on from the uprising, repression is widespread and rampant abuses by the security forces continue.
“The notion that Bahrain respects freedom of expression is pure fiction.
“Where is the freedom in a country where peaceful activists, dissidents and opposition leaders are repeatedly rounded up and arbitrarily arrested simply for tweeting their opinions and reading a poem can get you thrown in jail?”
A 17-year-old boy told Amnesty how he was struck on the right side of his face by a tear gas canister which tore his flesh and broke his jaw as he was chased by security forces as they dispersed a procession in December 2014. He said the officer who arrested him placed his foot on his head and said: “I will kill you today”.
The officers who then took him to hospital mocked him and left him screaming in pain for half an hour before he fell unconscious. He was later released without charge only to be re-arrested during a police raid at a later date.
Whilst Bahrain presents itself as a constitutional monarchy and democracy, the reality is that most of the positions of real power are filled by members from the AL Khalifa family.
Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa was installed as King of the newly declared Kingdom of Bahrain in 2002 and here is a recent list of his relations and their positions of authority
- HH Shaikh Mohammad bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, Deputy Prime Minister
- HH Shaikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Deputy Prime Minister
- Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, Deputy Prime Minister
The Ministers and their portfolios include:
- Lieutenant General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, Minister of Interior
- Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammad Al Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammad Al Khalifa, Minister of Finance
- Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowment
Last month, BIC Chief Executive Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa revealed that ticket sales have reached an all-time high compared to previous years’ levels with 60 days to go before the Bahrain Grand Prix.
In something of a surprise move, The Formula One Group owned by CVC has added a commitment in its section ‘legal notices’ as follows.
“1. The Formula One Group is committed to respecting internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally.
2. Whilst respecting human rights in all of our activities, we focus our efforts in relation to those areas which are within our own direct influence. We do so by taking proportionate steps to:
(a) understand and monitor through our due diligence processes the potential human rights impacts of our activities;
(b) identify and assess, by conducting due diligence where appropriate, any actual or potential adverse human rights impacts with which we may be involved either through our own activities or as a result of our business relationships, including but not limited to our suppliers and promoters;
(c) consider practical responses to any issues raised as a result of our due diligence, within the relevant context;
(d) engage in meaningful consultation with relevant stakeholders in relation to any issues raised as a result of our due diligence, where appropriate; and
(e) respect the human rights of our employees, in particular the prohibitions against forced and child labour, the freedom to associate and organise, the right to engage in collective bargaining, and the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation.
3. Where domestic laws and regulations conflict with internationally recognised human rights, the Formula One Group will seek ways to honour them to the fullest extent which does not place them in violation of domestic law”.
What exactly this means in terms of a change of practice is to be seen. Yet there is an argument that national regimes who clearly in breach of human rights legislation and/or use brutal methods to interrogate/discipline detainees – and are directly associated with Formula One – should be held to a higher account by the FIA and the commercial rights holders. This differs from circumstances where F1 race promoters are operating independently but under the constraints of a national government with whom they are not connected.
And now, we extend a warm welcome to our new F1 friends in Baku (World Report)