Formula One Pledges to Raise Abuse of Jailed Bahraini Activist After Damning UN Ruling

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29 October 2019 – Formula One has written to Lib Dem peer Lord Scriven to say they will raise the case of abused activist Najah Yusuf following the release of a damning ruling by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which found her imprisonment to be unlawful.  In the letter, Chief Counsel to Formula One Sacha Woodward-Hill asserted that Formula One would ask Bahrain to “consider in detail” the “report’s findings and recommendations for redress.”

The report found Ms Yusuf’s detention to be arbitrary and called for the government of Bahrain to immediately “accord her an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations” and to ensure a “full and independent investigation” into the circumstances of her imprisonment.  Ms Yusuf alleges she was tortured and sexually abused by officers from Bahrain’s National Security Agency in 2017, after she posted criticism of Formula One’s Bahrain Grand Prix on Facebook.

The letter represents yet another U-turn from Formula One in their attitude to Ms Yusuf’s case.  In 2018 they expressed concern for Ms Yusuf after being provided with her court judgement which explicitly referenced her opposition to the race. However, within months they had reverted to accepting assurances from the government of Bahrain that her imprisonment was unrelated to their business. 

Lord Scriven commented “While I note their acknowledgement of the UN’s ruling on Najah’s case, I remain disappointed that Sacha Woodward-Hill and Formula One Management still do not take any responsibility.

If F1 is genuinely concerned with the UN decision and intend to raise their concerns with Bahrain, they must do so publicly while being transparent about the actions they expect from the Bahraini Government and the time scale they expect them to act within. 

If Bahrain’s response is unsatisfactory, F1 must publicly commit to not racing in the country. The UN and other human rights organisations have already established the link between the Grand Prix and the human rights abuses suffered by Najah; F1 can no longer simply wait and watch from the stands.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD, commented As if spending over two years arbitrarily imprisoned was not enough, upon Najah’s release she has faced the further insult of being dismissed from her job.  To this day, she has received no redress and there is no indication that Bahrain intends to hold her abusers to account.

While Formula One have rightly raised the recent UN ruling with the Bahraini government, they need to make it clear that a failure to act on the ruling’s recommendations will have consequences to their tangible business relationship.  A failure to do so will only assure Bahrain that F1 will continue to sportswash their abuses and encourage the increasingly arrogant regime in their brazen attacks on freedom of expression.”

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