There was something of a stir last week, when the Formula One Group inserted a ‘Statement of commitment to human rights in the section ‘legal notices’ on its website.
Article 1 reads, “The Formula One Group is committed to respecting internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally”.
Though rather a woolly start, 2b gives a clearer commitment to “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”;
Despite serious concerns over human rights abuses in Azerbaijan, Bernie Ecclestone has given the green light to the European Grand Prix to be held in Baku – in 2016.
Ecclestone assured reporters in the media centre in Bahrain that proper due diligence into Azerbaijan’s human rights record had been done stating, “I think everybody seems to be happy. There doesn’t seem to be any big problem there.
“There’s no question of it not being on the calendar. It’s going to be another good race.”
Those who were cynical when FOM posted their commitment to human rights clauses, had good right for their stance.
Freedom House established in 1941 is an NGO that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights. In their 2015 report entitled, “Disregarding Democracy: A return to the iron fist”, Freedom House describes Azerbaijan as “one of the world’s worst dictatorships”.
“Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev won a landslide re-election victory [84% of the population] against an opposition that was crippled by arrests and legal constraints, and the regime stepped up its jailing of human rights activists, journalists, and other perceived enemies”.
However, International observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) heavily criticized the presidential election and assessed vote counting in 58 percent of polling stations observed as bad or very bad.
Azerbaijan in recent years banned the BBC, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America, to restrict the only media delivering pluralistic political comment to its citizens. On a scale of 1 to a 100, where 100 is complete repression, Azerbaijan’s press freedom is scored a woeful 84 and ranks amongst the worst in the world.
Countries with scores higher than 84 are Bahrain, North Korea, Syria, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Cuba, Belarus, Bahrain.
Torture and indiscriminate detention continue with impunity according to Human Rights Watch.
As the gleaming new city of Baku continues to rise, the government frequently seizes legally held property to make way for new shopping malls and highways for ‘the betterment of all’ – but without paying compensation paid to those
Amnesty International reports, “Over the last year, Azerbaijan has imprisoned dozens of journalists, human rights advocates, bloggers, lawyers, and academics who have criticized the regime”.
Yet Donald McKenzie of CVC must be content with Ecclestone’s due diligence as he has sanctioned the race in Baku to go ahead.
Meanwhile as TJ13 reported recently, Monza is set to be the latest of the traditional European races to slip form the F1 calendar. It is almost impossible at this time to see the race promoters being able to fund the 30 million euro’s the race will cost due to incremental hosting fees and changes in Italian tax legislation.
Bernie isn’t troubled by the fact that Monza appears to be going the same way as Magny-Cours, Imola, and the Nurburgring. In flippant form Bernie remarked whilst grinning, “We have to wait and see. They don’t have an agreement. Bit like Germany really.”
When it was posited that losing Monza was unthinkable, the F1 supremo retorted: “I tell you something, I was told that when we didn’t have a race in France actually. And Germany now. We’ve got some good replacements, haven’t we?”