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Calls to stop F1 Blood race in Bahrain to save people’s lives

Human rights campaigners have urged Formula One management to cancel this week’s Bahrain Grand Prix, accusing the country’s rulers of using the race to “whitewash” abuses and improve their image abroad. Bahrain’s biggest sporting event is watched by a worldwide audience of millions and has been held since 2004, with the exception of 2011 when violent civil unrest forced its cancellation. “Concerted and visible action is now required from Formula One, consistent with its commitment to human rights,” the groups (including Article 19 and IFEX) said in a letter to Formula One chairman Chase Carey and the two managing directors Sean Bratches and Ross Brawn. “We call on you to suspend this year’s race in view of the alarming situation in the country.” The letter, also addressed to the chief executive of F1 sponsor Heineken, was sent by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Article 19 and Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain. The revolutionary forces inside the country have launched their campaign against holding the Grand Prix in Bahrain. Hundreds of Bahrainis were arrested and tortured in previous years during those races including two women activists: Nafisa AlAsfoor and Rayhana Al Mousawi. Several people were killed by regime’s forces in this context.

For the week 3rd-9th April the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights documented at least 17 arbitrary arrests including one child. Out of 37 protests in 22 towns and villages at least six were attacked by masked members of Alkhalifa Death Squads and mercenary forces. In the early hours of this morning Ali Abdul Nabi AlSheikh was snatched by masked members of Alkhalifa Death Squads in a raid at his home in Karzakkan. Mohammad Saeed of Demstan Town was also abducted in a similar way.

British allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan remained in the top ranks of the world’s executioners. Since resuming executions in 2014, Pakistan has executed innocent people as well as juveniles and other vulnerable prisoners. Two brothers were recently acquitted by the Supreme Court, a year after they had been prematurely hanged. Other countries – notably Bahrain – have recently resumed executions following a pause of several years. Three native political protestors were executed this year. Egypt’s government was also highlighted in the report as a strong user of the death penalty. All four countries have close ties with the UK. Britain has continued to provide assistance to their security forces, despite concerns over abuses such as executions, and the use of torture to extract forced ‘confessions’. Human rights organization Reprieve has discovered that Bahraini and Saudi police have received repeated training from UK public bodies, despite concerns over the risk of complicity in abuses. Maya Foa – Director at Reprieve – said: it’s disturbing that certain governments are increasingly using the death penalty as a means of crushing dissent. Many of those with the worst record on executions are countries which British Prime Minister Theresa May has been actively courting in recent weeks – including Saudi Arabia, where juveniles face beheading and crucifixion, and Bahrain, where political protesters have been executed on the basis of forced ‘confessions.’ The UK government must not let the trade agenda trump concerns for human rights. Mrs May must condemn the use of the death penalty as a tool of oppression.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned Bahrain of looming economic crisis if it did not stop spending at the present rate. In the past few weeks Alkhalifa rulers signed military deal with the US of more than $5billion to buy 19 F16 which the country and the people do not need at all. On Monday IMF said that the drop in crude prices has largely offset “significant fiscal measures that were implemented,” causing the budget deficit and public debt in 2016 to stand at 18 percent and 82 percent of gross domestic product, respectively. “A sizable fiscal adjustment is urgently needed to restore fiscal sustainability, reduce vulnerabilities, and boost investor and consumer confidence,” the IMF said in a statement after concluding regular consultations with Alkhalifa authorities. The country’s 2016 budget deficit of 1.5 billion dinars ($4 billion), which is larger than its foreign exchange assets, spurred the government to tap both domestic and international markets to fund spending last year.

Sayed Hadi AlMousawi, a former MP, has been banned from travel to Geneva to take part in the debate on the Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review which is due this month. Yesterday, prominent human rights activist, Nidal Al Salman was interrogated at the airport on her way back from Paris with her husband. The famous musician, Mohammad Jawad, has also been prevented from travel. A national Orator, Mahdi Sahwan, has been sentenced to six months jail term for reciting poems and visiting Sheikh Isa Qassim’s house. The world renowned human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, has had an operation at the military hospital but was transferred to his cell before his treatment was completed. The US Human Rights Commission has called on Alkhalifa to return him to hospital for further treatment.
Bahrain Freedom Movement
12 April 2017 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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