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Humans Rights Watch accuses Bahrain of using the Formula 1 Grand Prix to cover up human rights abuses

The organization Human Rights Watch accused Bahrain this Friday of using the international political and sporting events that are organized in the Arab kingdom, such as the Formula 1 Grand Prix held in the Sakhir circuit, to “whitewash his image” and cover up his “campaign to crush” the political opposition and civil society.

“The organization of high-level sporting and international events in Bahrain is a transparent attempt to whitewash his decades-long campaign to crush political opposition and stifle the country’s vibrant civil society,” said HRW’s acting executive director, Tirana Hassanit’s a statement.

The letter made direct reference as a more tangible example to the aforementioned F1 Grand Prix, held less than a week ago in Bahrain, and stated that twenty-one groups, including HRW, sent a letter to the president of the competition, Stefano Domenicalito “raise serious concerns over F1’s continued role in ‘sports laundering’ amid the deteriorating human rights situation” in the Persian Gulf kingdom.

Similarly, the statement stressed that the local authorities of Bahrain “impose restrictions on expression, association and assembly that violate the country’s international human rights obligations: elections are neither free nor fair, opposition voices are systematically excluded and repressed, and independent media have been effectively banned from the country.”

He also stressed that in Bahrain there are “at least 26 men sentenced to death who have already exhausted legal remedies and are at risk of execution.” “Almost half of those men have reported being tortured to obtain false confessionswhich were then used against him in court,” added HRW, citing a joint report published in 2021 by the NGOs BIRD and Reprieve.

Stroll and Alonso embrace at the end of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Alonso chats with Dan Fallows and other Aston Martin members.

On the other hand, HRW denounced that the Bahraini authorities have revoked visas to enter the country that they had granted to two HRW members to attend a meeting of the Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), in which he has permanent observer status. “His unilateral revocation of HRW’s access to the IPU conference is a flagrant example of his escalating repression,” Hassan added.

In turn, he urged that “governments, influential organizations and prominent officials they should speak out against Bahrain’s abuses so as not to be complicit of their efforts to cover up their appalling rights record.” The IPU Assembly, which Bahrain will host from March 11-15, is being held under the slogan “For Democracy, For All” and “Promoting Peaceful Coexistence and Inclusive Societies: Fighting Intolerance”.

“These statements are in stark contrast to the long history of serious human rights abuses in Bahrain that HRW and other human rights organizations have documented,” he added to end the HRW statement.

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