There is no way that the Formula 1 circus should be going anywhere near Bahrain this weekend. The report published by Amnesty International contains grim evidence of unfair trial, arrest, police brutality and torture. The last cases they document took place in mid February, a time when the Bahraini Government was trying to portray a benign image of new found respectability.
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is a human rights activist serving a life sentence for taking part in last year’s protests. A life sentence. And if he’s not released soon, that life might not have much left to go given that he is currently around 60 days into a hunger strike.
Amnesty has found that those members of the security forces who violated these prisoners have not been punished for their actions.
F1 spent last weekend in China. The human rights record of the Chinese Government is pretty diabolical. I don’t like the sport going there. However, the F1 crowd’s brief visit didn’t, I think, cause any extra repression or lives to be lost. The situation is different in Bahrain. The Police are armed with live ammunition and will most likely shoot first and ask questions later if they think something’s going to embarrass the Government. Ex Met officer John Yates is out there advising them and what he told the Guardian makes chilling reading. That regime will do heaven knows what to keep the streets quiet. Unfortunately we know from the Amnesty Report that heaven knows what involves sexual assualt, beatings, sleep deprivation and electric shocks and blindfolds. Oh, and people’s families being threatened too.
That’s why I’d like someone to go and give the exceptionally lovable current world champion Mr Vettel a clip round the ear with the Amnesty Report and tell him and anyone else daft enough to say the same, that Bahrain is not like Brazil. The area around Interlagos is a bit dodgy and people have had trouble getting to the circuit – Jenson was robbed a couple of years back, but this is a whole world of brutality away from that.
Already, Force India staff have come closer than anyone would ever want to a fire bomb and the Police have been firing stun grenades at protesters. This violence is a direct result of the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone’s decision to go there and they should all be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
Let’s just hope that nobody, civilian, team or circuit personnel is seriously hurt or worse as a result of that foolish decision.