Human rights organizations have urged FIA president Mohamed Ben Sulaiman to scrap new rules that prevent drivers from expressing political views.
An amendment to the International Sporting Laws that came into force earlier this year prohibits the “giving and display of political, religious and personal expressions or opinions in general” by drivers, in violation of the FIA’s general principle of neutrality. Laws unless previously authorized in writing.
The amendment has raised concerns among human rights groups, and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy criticized the change in a letter to Ben Sulaiman today.
“We believe that this Formula One (F1) drivers and teams stifles freedom of speech and prevents them from raising their voices on key issues of human rights and racism,” said BIRD director Seyed Ahmed Alwaday, as seen by RaceFans. .
“This action seems to be a response to the drivers, especially Lewis Hamilton, who raised their concerns about the places chosen for the F1 races, including the human rights records of the host countries and the strong intervention in which your own organization is silent,” he said. Letter, to F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali, as well as representatives of F1 teams and drivers, including Hamilton and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
Alwaday said his company had no “meaningful” relationship with the FIA since Ben Sulaiman took over from predecessor Jean Todt at the end of 2021.
“In the year On 19 March 2021, under the chairmanship of Fédération Internationale d’Automobile (FIA) Jean Todt, BIRD held a meeting with FIA High Representative Onika Millar in the presence of former UN High Commissioner Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad. ” Alwaday wrote. “In this meeting, which was our last meaningful engagement with the FIA, the FIA policy and commitment to human rights was discussed and we were given encouraging assurances that your predecessor was very keen on the FIA adopting a human rights policy.
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Unfortunately, Jean Todt’s presidency ended without a human rights policy in place and it is unclear whether or not this is still something the FIA is working on under your leadership. Alwaday said the letter sent to 90 European lawmakers in March last year went unanswered despite follow-up inquiries by British MPs and Lords.
“This sets a dangerous precedent that the FIA will deliberately ignore honest human rights concerns and criticism of the organization and F1,” he said.
Alwaday questioned how the FIA would try to limit drivers’ opinions when the governing body had already acted on political issues.
“The FIA’s recent action targets drivers like Lewis Hamilton who have used the platform to support Black Lives Matter and human rights in countries with troubled human rights records, including Bahrain and Saudi Arabia,” he wrote. “In his entire career, none of Lewis Hamilton’s statements could be more political than the FIA’s decision to pull out of the Russian race because of the invasion of Ukraine.
“In your own statement last year you condemned the Russian invasion and expressed ‘sorrow and shock’ for the victims in Ukraine. While I appreciate that statement, it’s clearly political. If you don’t believe this can be considered political, it’s not clear what is. F1 drivers should be allowed to exercise the same rights as you. [the FIA] They should be free to express their moral position.
He also said that the FIA’s relationship with Gulf countries such as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates is a conflict of interest. BIRD has filed a legal complaint against F1 in England regarding the extension of the Bahrain Grand Prix contract announced last February.
“I urge you to reverse your policy of preventing F1 drivers and teams from publicly raising their concerns about the human rights practices of F1 race host governments and apply the same level of commitment to human rights as the FIA. Establish a clear human rights policy,” he concluded.
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Bahrain’s GP was canceled in 2011 after the government cracked down on popular protests by pro-democracy protesters, which led to clashes, deaths and arrests. The race was returned to the calendar the following year, but human rights groups have repeatedly urged those taking part in the race to speak out for people imprisoned and on death row in the country.
Last year, Hamilton said he was “deeply moved” to hear some Bahraini prisoners express their support for the country’s human rights situation during talks with local officials and the country’s British ambassador.
F1 continues to expand its presence in the Middle East despite criticism from some of the countries it visits, notably Saudi Arabia, which joined the calendar in 2021. In a statement to RaceFans, Alwaday said the FIA and F1 are giving legitimacy to rulers who commit human crimes. Violations of rights by allowing the possession of F1 seeds.
“When the FIA and F1 choose to give races to some of the world’s most repressive regimes, such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, they are facilitating the laundering of sport and allowing these dictatorial regimes to police their appalling rights records,” he said.
“It is deeply disturbing to see the FIA now emulating the tactics of its oppressive business partners in an attempt to silence the voices of critics and advocates. Drivers such as Lewis Hamilton, who failed the FIA and F1, stood up and cried foul, and his vocal support for political prisoners in Bahrain exposed a horrific injustice. Now, the FIA wants to silence him and others, and punish them if they dare to speak out.
“We are telling Mohammed Ben Suleiman that this policy is wrong and must be reversed immediately.”
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