Watch: Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley responds to Bernie Ecclestone’s comments on Formula One in Bahrain.
President of Formula One Bernie Ecclestone was quoted in a Reuters piece today saying he has no concerns about the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix becoming a target for protestors.
“I haven’t had any negative reports from anybody there,” Eccleston said. “I think they (both sides) are talking now anyway… so I don’t think [democracy protestors] will upset the talks by making protests. It didn’t help them last year, so if they had any brains they’d just get on with their talks.”
“Somebody who actually lives there came to see me yesterday and said everything’s very normal,” Ecclestone adds.
Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley responds, “He must have a strange idea for what normal is. Bahrain remains volatile and its human rights crisis continues.”
“One issue is whether or not human rights violations might be happening as a result of the race being there,” Dooley adds, “If the regime arrests people in order to intimidate others from peacefully protesting around Formula One, then the organizers, participants, and sponsors really need to say something about that.”
In my recent interview with Maryam Alkhawaja, acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, she says, “When the protest becomes bigger and bigger, the media says: oh the protests comes back to Bahrain, the fact of the matter is that the protest never stopped.” Nor has the government crackdown.
The regime restarted a dialogue with some opposition groups earlier this year. This is a promising step, but key members of opposition groups remain in jail. So do leading human rights leaders including Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and human rights defenders Zainab and Abdulhadi Alkhawaja.
If the regime truly wants to a have a fruitful dialogue, it should release opposition leaders and invite them to participate in talks.
Human Rights First will be monitoring what happens on the ground during the Bahrain Grand Prix. Stay tuned.