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BAHRAIN: Human rights activists decry return of Formula 1 Grand Prix

June 3, 2011 | 10:59 am


Human rights activists said Friday’s decision by Formula 1 authorities to reschedule a Grand Prix race in Bahrain in October "damages the push for human rights in the country."

“Giving this prestigious event to the Bahrain authorities while there are reports of peaceful protesters being shot in the streets is a formula for disaster,” said Brian Dooley of U.S.-based Human Rights First.

“Hundreds of people remain in detention after months of military rule. Show trials and attacks on human rights activists continue," Dooley said. "Pro-democracy activists are being left in the dust.  The Bahraini authorities should not have been awarded this event when they can’t even protect the basic human rights of their people.”

Timeline: Repression in Bahrain

The race was canceled after a pro-democracy uprising in February against the Persian Gulf nation's monarchy that prompted a brutal crackdown and complaints of arbitrary arrests, detentions and sentences by military courts. Bahrain's king lifted the country's state of emergency Wednesday, but protests continued Friday as pro-democracy demonstrators clashed with police in the capital, Manama, and elsewhere.

"The brutal crackdown on peaceful dissent in Bahrain continues," Dooley said. "Bahraini authorities continue to attack and harass human rights defenders, preventing them from carrying out their peaceful work to promote human rights. They have been arrested and beaten, and their homes attacked. Some are prevented from leaving the country.  It is surprising that the Formula 1 authorities are willing to be associated with such repression."

“By aligning itself with the violent Bahraini regime, Formula 1’s reputation will be severely damaged,” added Dooley.  “Racing fans everywhere should be dismayed that Formula 1 is lending its stamp of approval to a country where reform has stalled.”

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo

Photo: An unidentified man jogs past the entry to the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, on Thursday. Formula 1's governing body decided to reschedule the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday for October. Bahrain organizers insist they are ready to host the race, which was meant to open the season but was postponed following anti-government protests in February that eventually left at least 30 dead. Credit: Hasan Jamali/Associated Press.