Sacha Woodward Hill, General Counsel
Chase Carey, Chairman and Chief Executiv
Ross Brawn, Managing Director, Motor Sports
Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations
6 Princes Gate
22 June 2017
Dear Ms Woodward Hill, Mr Carey, Mr Brawn and Mr Bratches,
Thank you for your response on 16 April 2017 to the letter regarding the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain and the human rights risks associated with the Formula 1 event. We write to follow up on the points you raised on freedom of expression and proportionate use of force, based on evidence documented during this year’s event and to call on you to exercise enhanced due diligence in line with your human rights responsibilities.
In your letter, you explicitly state that Formula 1 expects “journalists and other commentators who wish to use the occasion of a Formula 1 Grand Prix event to express their opinions peacefully will be able to do so without reprisal,” and that “the host country will professionally train its public and private security officials to use lawful and proportionate measures in respect of any demonstrations around the time of a Formula 1 Grand Prix event.” Moreover, your own Statement of Commitment to Respect for Human Rights states that you “understand and monitor” through “due diligence processes the potential human rights impacts” of Formula 1’s global operations. While we note this commitment, the events around this year’s Grand Prix strongly suggest that Formula 1 needs to consider stronger “practical responses to any issues raised as a result of [y]our due diligence”.
The April 2017 Grand Prix coincided with government reprisals against journalists and the excessively forceful suppression of peaceful protesters. In the month leading up to the 2017 Grand Prix, former Agence France-Presse (AFP) photojournalist Mohammad Al-Sheikh was detained and interrogated for 24 hours at Bahrain International Airport. He is one of several Bahraini journalists working for international media outlets whom the Bahraini government has arbitrarily denied granting accreditation to since 2016. Another journalist, Nazeeha Saeed, was found guilty of reporting without a license in May 2017 and fined 1,000 Bahrain Dinars (USD $2,650). The outlets impacted by this denial of accreditation – AFP, Associated Press, France 24 and Monte Carlo Doualiya – alongside international press freedom NGOs, wrote in April: “These recent actions have had a chilling effect on the media’s ability to cover Bahrain at a time when the country faces a growing set of challenges. The apparently coordinated action against journalists working for international news agencies suggests that Bahrain—which prides itself as being a business friendly, reform-minded beacon of openness and tolerance—aims to block independent news and images from reaching the wider world.” These findings are reinforced by the statement by five UN human rights experts in June 2017 called on Bahrain to “immediately cease its campaign of persecution against human rights defenders, journalists and anyone else with divergent opinions.”