Pressure to cancel the upcoming Formula 1 'Grand Prix' in Bahrain is mounting after a scathing report by Amnesty International called the ruling government's recent "reform" efforts deeply "flawed" and amidst ramped up protests on Monday that occurred both inside and outside of the Middle East island nation. The race, which was canceled twice last year because of concerns about safety, is due to run Sunday.
"With the world's eyes on Bahrain as it prepares to host the Grand Prix, no-one should be under any illusions that the country's human rights crisis is over," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director. "The authorities are trying to portray the country as being on the road to reform, but we continue to receive reports of torture and use of unnecessary and excessive force against protests. Their reforms have only scratched the surface."
Though F-1 officials have tried to claim that the auto race wants no part of the 'political or moral arguments' circulating in Bahrain, one unnamed protester told the Daily Mail that the race could not extract itself from the nation's turmoil. "People here are getting killed," he said, "and with F1 here we feel like they are driving on our blood, on our bodies."
On Monday, two men climbed to the roof of the Bahraini Embassy in London to protest the continued imprisonment of pro-democracy advocates in their country. One of the men's father has been held in detention by authorities, he claimed, but his only crime was "was to demand human rights and democracy."
"People here are getting killed and with F1 here we feel like they are driving on our blood, on our bodies." - Bahraini pro-democracy advocate
And in the Bahrain capital of Manama on Monday, government security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesting crowds as they gathered to express their outrage against the continued repression of the pro-democracy movement and against the race planned for the end of the week.
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Amnesty International: Flawed Reforms: Bahrain fails to achieve justice for protesters
Amnesty International is calling on the Bahraini government to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and to ensure that those suspected of torturing and killing, including those with command responsibility, are held accountable.
"The establishment of the BICI was a real breakthrough and raised expectations that things would be different in Bahrain," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director. "Yet, nearly five months after the report's publication, real change has not materialized."
"It is time for the Bahraini government to match its public pronouncements with genuine actions."
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The Daily Mail/UK: F1 chiefs warned of 'casualties' ahead of controversial Bahrain Grand Prix
One unnamed protester, however, believes F1 does Bahrain no favours as he said: 'People here are getting killed, and with F1 here we feel like they are driving on our blood, on our bodies.'
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Further demonstrations are due to take place over the next few days, with one in particular today on the doorstep of the Gulf kingdom's international airport.
It is understood the focus will not only solely centre on pro-democracy rights, but also anti-F1.
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The Evening Standard/UK: Bahrain embassy protest for jailed father ahead of F1 Grand Prix
A protester occupying the roof of the Bahraini Embassy in London told today how he is trying to save his sick father from dying in prison.
Ali Mushaima and friend Moosa Mohammed climbed scaffolding on the building in Belgrave Square yesterday. Police closed streets as Bahrain’s foreign ministry called the men “terrorists”.
The pair unfurled a banner against the imprisonment of Mr Mushaima’s father Hassan and other dissidents.
Speaking from the roof, Mr Mushaima, 29, said: “My father is in prison and his health is bad. They gave him a life sentence. He is an old man, he’s 60, and his crime was to demand human rights and democracy. I want to save his life.” They were also protesting against the decision to hold the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Bahrain next Sunday.
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Al-Jazeera: Bahrain criticised for 'inadequate' reforms
Formula One drivers are making their way to Bahrain for the race set to take place there this weekend, despite hundreds of protesters who continue to clash with police in what has become a regular occurrence in the capital Manama.
Riot police fired tear gas to disperse protesting crowds on Monday, as they gathered to show their anger against the government and the planned race.
"I think it's problematic to hold an event like this in a place where such human rights abuses have been taken place. Where the government hasn't lived up to its obligations where we haven't seen the kind of steps of progress that were called for by this independent international commission," Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of Amnesty in the US told the Reuters news agency.
"If you're going to turn on the tv and focus on Bahrain this weekend you ought to focus on the full picture, " she said.
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