Azerbaijan gets all clear on human rights from Ecclestone

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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?”

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18 responses to “Azerbaijan gets all clear on human rights from Ecclestone

  1. Next, ban all sports in EU and Britain:

    “There’s something we need to be clear on. The death of 900 refugees – we have to use that blanket term because we don’t know the names of the dead, and I suspect we never will – in the Mediterranean over the weekend was not a “tragedy”. The word tragedy implies an accidental calamity. An unfortunate confluence of space and time.

    There was nothing accidental about the deaths of The 900. They were killed as a direct – and deliberate – act of government policy. EU policy. And British government policy.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/politics-blog/11549721/The-900-refugees-dead-in-the-Mediterranean-were-killed-by-British-government-policy.html

    • Hey PK! Give credit where credit is due! My own best-beloved country has been supplying all sides with armaments to insure the fighting never ends! And the communities are destroyed and purged of their people!
      Moral: Invest in war and you will never be disappointed.
      lm

    • Bullshit. These unfortunates died because they paid a bunch of criminals to supply transport on unseaworthy hulks and made the judgement to get on board; they died because they assumed that they would succeed in gaining access to countries where you are given the benefit of the doubt that you may be “fleeing persecution” if you throw away your documents.
      Like most parts of the world the countries of the EU (an institution that I detest) are responsible for many appalling actions but compared to Bahrain and Azerbaijan they are paradise – which is why people are prepared to take big risks to get here. That’s not our bl00dy fault and it shouldn’t be our problem.
      Recall that there are multitudes of illegal immigrants (are we still allowed to characterise them thus?) lurking about around Calais: they’re by definition already in the EU – however they’re prepared to risk death under or in a truck in order to reach Britain… Now why would that be? I’d say it’s because we’re suckers.
      Recall the Sikhs who died in a container at Harwich? They were escaping from Afghanistan (where the Sikhs have traditionally, as in India, owned and operated the bus, taxi and trucking businesses).
      Now the Sikhs have something close to their own near-autonomous Indian state in Punjab courtesy of the failed “Khalistan” secessionist movement in the 80s. These people could have travelled from Kabul to Amritsar in about two or three bus trips (which I’ve done myself). Whichever direction out of Kabul they were travelling wouldn’t have been 100% safe. But they could have got to India more easily than London and there are worse places to live than Punjab, particularly for Sikhs. But they didn’t do that: they paid lots of money to smugglers in order to get to the Promised Land, the UK – and they died in the attempt.
      People are responsible for their own actions, even when they come from impoverished countries. Which doesn’t make tragic deaths less tragic, but it doesn’t make us responsible either.

  2. not forgetting Australia:

    “UN accuses Australia of systematically violating torture convention”
    http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/mar/09/un-reports-australias-immigration-detention-breaches-torture-convention

    “‘Tiny hearts’ and ‘balls of steel’. Is this really what the world thinks of Australia?”
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/20/tiny-hearts-and-balls-of-steel-this-is-what-the-world-thinks-of-australia

  3. Greed and self-delusion combined with a healthy dose of sociopathic tendencies are a powerful mix. Where is Monty Python when you need them?

    Crucifixion?
    Yes.
    Good. Out of the door, line on the left, one cross each.

    lm

  4. If this banana republic GP replaces one of the European GPs, such as Monza or Nurburgring, it will be scandalous.

  5. The casualness w/ which Ecclestone writes off European GPs that have decades of history and are still attended by 10s of thousands of fans (even poorly promoted, under-resourced Germany), and the flippance/non-interest in fans’ concerns over the disappearance of these races and 1) their replacement w/ pseudo-fake GPs by/for dictatorships or other authoritarian regimes, 2) that preside over hyper-corrupt, criminal states (errr, hi Russia); 3) races run on often-bland tracks at fake venues with minimal local fan support or even no interest in motorsports; 4) all the while paying lip service to serious and universal topics like human rights…is maddening!

    • I agree with you without equivocation, Joe.

      “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…”

      Joe, do you also get the feeling that we just read Bernie’s wish list targets for new Grand Prix over the coming few years? Eeeek!

      If (when?) they happen, at least we’ll have a chuckle at those trying to diminish the reporting of these countries horrendous regimes by aligning them to the “horrors” of Australia, the U.S. and the UK (poke poke, wink wink, nudge nudge).

      And on we march…

      • Which is why the ‘North Korea’ question at one of the FIA press conferences last year wasn’t so ridiculous – when you look at the profile of some of the participants in Bernie’s new F1-land

        • Indeed, Judge. Indeed…

          I recall that very question being posed by a brave journalist in Hungary, and then my resulting laughter as Christian Horner lost the plot.

          It was, as the kids say, “totes lol”, or something like that.

  6. and to add to that, from the CIA factbook:

    “…Corruption in the country [Azerbaijan] is widespread, and the government, which eliminated presidential term limits in a 2009 referendum, has been accused of authoritarianism…”

  7. can any of us have the right to complain when we use goods manufactured under terrible conditions in China, India, Thailand etc etc etc ….
    Just as everyone complains about Bahrain, the British government partially funding a new military base there!

    • I think the issue of human rights or democracy, are secondary to sports fans. What’s truly scandalous is that iconic F1 circuits like Nurburgring and Monza, are possibly being replaced by a banana republic GP of Azerbaijan. How would you feel if next year, the British, Belgian, and Canada or Monaco GPs were replaced by Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Moscow? Sure, I don’t mind to see F1 go racing there, but certainly not at the expense of the most important GPs of year.

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