Bahraini prince Shaikh Nasser has handpicked a team of thirteen triathlon athletes to compete around the world for Bahrain and “promote a culture of health and wellness and endurance sporting excellence across the Gulf region and beyond.” Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture (ACAT) have written an open letter to the members of the Bahrain 13 Endurance Team, imploring them to reevaluate their membership on the team and stand up to the human rights abuses committed by Shaikh Nasser and the Government of Bahrain.
Please see below for full text of the letter.
31 July 2015
Dear Bahrain 13 Endurance Team,
On 7 May 2015, Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, a member of the royal family of Bahrain, announced the formation of the Bahrain Endurance 13. In his announcement and in subsequent media coverage, your name appeared on the roster as one of the thirteen sportsmen associated with the group. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) writes to you to express concern that, by associating yourself with the Bahrain Endurance 13, you not only perpetuate the cycle of human rights abuses in the country, but also serve to aid the government in actively obfuscating its abusive tendencies.
In February 2011, thousands of Bahrainis took part in a peaceful protest against the Government of Bahrain, demanding an end to human rights abuses and their rightful place in a representative democracy. The government responded by waging a campaign of violence against the protesters, injuring hundreds of people. In the four years since the uprising, the government has continued its oppressive tactics, imprisoning and torturing those that would express their dissent.
According to an interview with Bahrain Endurance 13 manager Chris McCormack that appeared on the website of Triathlete Europe, members of the Bahrain Endurance 13, including yourself, may be aware of the human rights situation in Bahrain. We are concerned, however, that you may not have been alerted to the substantial allegations against the leader of the team, Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, who is believed to have personally carried out and been complicit in numerous acts of arbitrary incarceration, political violence, and torture. In October 2014, a Bahraini citizen and United Kingdom asylee known anonymously as FF brought allegations before a UK court stating that Prince Nasser had personally taken part in his torture. In a landmark ruling, the High Court of the United Kingdom stripped Prince Nasser of his political immunity in relation to these alleged acts of torture, stating that the prince may be tried in the UK for acts of torture committed in Bahrain. This is not the only instance of abuse in which Prince Nasser finds himself entangled; over the last two years, ADHRB has documented several cases in which victims allege that the prince himself carried out their torture.
Further, we are concerned that you may not be aware that the very name of the Bahrain Endurance 13 appears to be intended to conceal Bahrain’s human rights abuses. During the March assault on the 2011 peaceful protest movement, the Government of Bahrain arrested thirteen human rights and political activists that had held leadership roles in the movement. Over the course of the next several months, government security forces subjected these individuals to significant acts of torture. Bahraini courts later sentenced them to prison terms ranging from several years to life imprisonment. These thirteen activists later became known as the “Bahrain 13,” and have become a symbol for democracy and hope in the country. We believe that the naming of the Bahrain Endurance 13 is not a coincidence, but is in fact aimed at supplanting the country’s long-standing emblem of peaceful resistance with a commercial sports icon.
Our concern for the human rights situation in Bahrain combined with our apprehension regarding the serious nature of the allegations surrounding Prince Nasser’s activities lead us to request that you reconsider your relationship with the Bahrain Endurance 13 team. By ending your membership with the team and disavowing their activities, you can show Prince Nasser and the Government of Bahrain that they cannot continue to abuse the human rights of their citizens with impunity.
The people of Bahrain deserve your support. As the Government of Bahrain continues to oppress its citizens, it falls to people like you to stand up for human rights and show that sportsmanship extends beyond the field.
Thank you very much for your time. We look forward to your response.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy
CC: Javier Gomez Noya (ESP)
Jodie Swallow (GBR)
James Cunnama (RSA)
Ben Hoffman (USA)
Luke Bell (AUS)
Joe Gambles (AUS)
Sam Appleton (AUS)
Brent McMahon (CAN)
Caroline Steffen (SUI)
Jan Frodeno (DEU)
Daniela Ryf (SUI)
Bahrain Endurance 13 Team