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Bahrain escalates crackdown on opposition ahead of F1 race

Anti-F1 graffitti in the village of Barbar in Bahrain
Anti-F1 graffitti in the village of Barbar in Bahrain

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses grave concern in regards to the escalated security measures, increased house raids and arbitrary arrests of citizens living in villages located near the Bahrain International Circuit, which is due to host the Formula 1 Grand Prix race on 21 April 2013.

BCHR received numerous reports and documented cases of house raids by masked men in civilian clothing around midnight and at dawn on 7 April 2013, which have resulted in arbitrary arrests in villages close to the Bahrain International Circuit.

During the first week of April 2013, 10 youth including minors, ranging in age between 16 and 25, were arrested. Mohammad Abu-Zuhaira was one of them.

The family of one of the prisoners stated that at dawn, a police officer along with masked men raided their house and asked to see the ID of one of the family members and asked for him. As the family went to fetch the man they were after, the masked men followed the family inside. They then arrested him without presenting an arrest warrant. The family did not know of their son's whereabouts for three days. When the family went to the Hamad Town Police Station asking for him, officers denied any knowledge of his whereabouts.

BCHR believes that the escalated house raids and arbitrary arrests are meant to spread fear and force silence among citizens to minimize protests and prevent any negative media coverage displaying the continuous violations by the Bahrain authorities during the F1 Race.

Brian Dooley from Human Rights First stated in a response to billionaire and president of Formula One Bernie Ecclestone:

“One issue is whether or not human rights violations might be happening as a result of the race being there,” Dooley adds, “If the regime arrests people in order to intimidate others from peacefully protesting around Formula One, then the organizers, participants, and sponsors really need to say something about that.”

The Bahrain International Circuit, which hosts the F1 race in Bahrain, is yet to be held accountable for violations conducted in 2011; namely sacking quarter of its staff after pro-democracy protests began to erupt across the country and reportedly torturing staff on it's premises.

BCHR calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the UN and all other allies and international institutions to put pressure on the government of Bahrain to stop its use of excessive force in response to the continued protests, and to put an end to the culture of impunity by holding people accountable for the ongoing human rights violations, including officials in high positions and members of the ruling family.

BCHR calls on the board of directors of the International Formula One race to cancel the event in Bahrain in light of the records of human rights violations committed as a result of hosting the race, as well as the general human rights situation, which continues to deteriorate under the policy of impunity.

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