• In 2012 Amnesty International called for the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix which they said would be “inappropriate” given the levels of violence and unrest.
  • ·In 2013 Amnesty called for the Formula One to be cancelled due to the “arrests and restrictions” carried out in order to pre-empt incidents of violence and unrest.
  • ·In 2014 we have Amnesty speaking out about their “fears” that there may be “arrests and restrictions” during the Grand Prix
  • Presumably by 2015 we will have Amnesty calling for the Grand Prix to be halted because it may trigger “fears” of possible unspecified measures.

This logical retreat by Amnesty International is the result of a certain mindset that everything is very bad in Bahrain after three years of uncritically attending to opposition rhetoric. However, in the absence of any coherent evidence of human rights abuses around this year’s Grand Prix we end up with this self-contradictory statement, which seeks to condemn the Bahraini authorities for what they might possibly do.

By April last year, there had already been a whole string of bombing attempts by opposition militants against public locations and sports stadiums. Opposition groups had threatened to disrupt the Grand Prix, and messages had circulated warning anyone who attended the Formula One, including the racing teams, that their “safety couldn’t be guaranteed”.

The 2013 Grand Prix took place safely and peacefully; although the authorities did take measures against certain individuals who were threatening to disrupt the event. However, several protest rallies were given licenses to take place over the course of the Formula One.

In Amnesty’s new statement, they conflate the arrests of militants and the licensed and approved protests; in order to accuse the Bahraini Government of seeking to “quash peaceful protests”.

Amnesty then acknowledges recent fatal bomb attacks against police; suggesting that the authorities could use “terror attacks on police to justify imposing further restrictions during the Grand Prix”.

It seems that for Amnesty, the reality of terrorist attacks does not justify proportionate and targeted measures to ensure the safety of Grand Prix fans: Just as Britain took measures to protect people at the 2012 Olympics and other nations would do for securing international events.

Because of three years of listening over-sympathetically to a Bahraini opposition that knowingly lies and exaggerates –



– Amnesty itself seems incapable of differentiating between a “peaceful protestor” and militants who are intent on killing police and civilians to further their extremist political ends.

The incidents Amnesty cites of alleged abuses are indeed regrettable, but relate back to a year ago. The fact that there has been a full year with very little in the way of alleged abuses undermines the impression Amnesty is trying to give of Bahrain as a situation that hasn’t dramatically improved.

Amnesty’s Said Boumedouha says: “Three years on from the 2011 uprising, Bahrain has seen only cosmetic changes and empty promises of reform. Arbitrary arrests, crackdowns on protests and torture in custody continue unabated. Using the Grand Prix to boost Bahrain’s public image is little more than a blatant attempt to gloss over mounting abuses with the hype of an international sporting event.”

This short statement is wrong on several counts:

Many of the reforms implemented so far are very real and very tangible (http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/entry/have-the-bici-recommendations-been-implemented).

It is wrong to talk about “arbitrary arrests” when the reality of the terrorist threat is all too obvious; this is a good example of Amnesty swallowing opposition rhetoric.

We have already pointed out that legitimate protests are granted licensing and permission; while rioting and criminal behaviour are rightly acted against.

The idea that there is anything wrong with Bahrain continuing to host the Grand Prix is also distasteful. Why does Bahrain not have a right to hold such an event, while countries like China, Malaysia, Russia, India and others do?

The reality is that the Grand Prix is occurring in a calm and normal situation this year, which means there is little need for any exceptional measures by the security forces; beyond the importance of ensuring a secure and relaxed environment in which the Formula One can succeed.

While we recognize the important work Amnesty International does in reporting abuses in countries like Syria, Sri Lanka, Russia and Iran; this latest statement only provides further evidence that Amnesty is out of touch; ill-informed and poorly judged when it comes to its position on Bahrain.

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