MPs call on F1 to set up independent inquiry into links between races and human rights

Henry Valantine
Formula 1 flag. F1 Italy 2022.

Formula 1 flag. F1 Italy 2022.

UK politicians have called on F1 to set up an independent inquiry to investigate links between grand prix host nations and human rights violations.

The call has come ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend, with Liberal Democrat peer Lord Scriven wanting F1 to use the spotlight of the race to put pressure on the nation to release death row prisoners and political detainees.

Bahrain is one of several nations which the sport visits which comes under intense scrutiny over its human rights record, along with human rights groups also being heavily critical of the likes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates, as well as there being continued criticism over the continued use of the death penalty in the United States, where three rounds will be held this year, by Amnesty International.

A statement from F1 read, as per the BBC: “For decades Formula 1 has worked hard to be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits.

“Sports like F1 are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement.

“We take our responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on human rights and other issues clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect human rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered.”

Lord Scriven was openly critical of FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem back in January after he did not respond to a letter surrounding concerns raised about human rights, and he currently acts as vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy and Human Rights in the Gulf in the UK House of Lords.

He said: “It is a pity that the present leadership of the FIA and F1 seem to think money, profit and their own self-importance are far more important than giving dignity and basic human rights to people in the country that they make profit from.”

Sayed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute of Rights and Democracy [BIRD], said: “It is high time that F1 and the FIA stop allowing their presence in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to be used to sports-wash the blood-soaked images of these autocracies.

“Despite horrific human rights records, both states enjoy generous F1 contracts and exploit the F1 platform to sanitise their image on the world stage, while thousands of political prisoners languish behind bars. F1 must establish an independent and impartial inquiry to examine the role of their races in human rights violations, and the FIA must adopt a human rights policy consistent with UN principles.

“Failure to do so will allow their sport to continue to be used to repair the reputation of brutal dictators.”

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The Houses of Parliament hosted a press conference on Tuesday in which current and former political prisoners in Bahrain gave testimony of their experiences in the nation, while families of current death row inmates have written to Formula 1 drivers asking them to intervene and show support.

As a nation, Bahrain says it “has made great strides in safeguarding and protecting human rights and preserving the dignity of citizens and residents” with reforms, and F1 itself is committed to “respect[ing] internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally” as part of its corporate charter.