Lewis Hamilton urges Formulation 1 to not ignore human rights violations

Formulation One champion Lewis Hamilton on Thursday urged the worldwide racing collection to not ignore human rights violations within the international locations the place it levels races, a problem that’s as soon as once more a subject forward of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Bahrain, which has held F1 races since 2004, has been accused of exploiting the collection to gloss over, or “sportswash,” its human rights report — through the use of a high-profile sporting occasion to venture a beneficial picture of the nation. The F1 calendar this 12 months additionally consists of races in Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia, who’ve been accused of utilizing sports activities in an identical method.

“I don’t think that we should be going to these countries and ignoring what is happening in those places, arriving, having a great time and then leave,” Hamilton mentioned Thursday, forward of Sunday’s Bahrain GP. “Human rights, I don’t think, should be a political issue. We all deserve equal rights.”

‘Dedicated to serving to any method I can’

After final 12 months’s Bahrain GP, the seven-time world champion mentioned he hoped to talk instantly with Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa with regards to the Persian Gulf State’s human rights report.

Requested throughout Thursday’s information convention if he had managed to talk with the crown prince, Hamilton mentioned:

“At the moment I think the steps that I’ve taken really have been in private, and I think that’s the right way to go about it. So I don’t really want to say too much that may jeopardize any progress.”

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However, Hamilton added, “I’m definitely committed to helping any way I can.”

Earlier than final 12 months’s Bahrain GP in November, Hamilton acquired three letters from alleged torture survivors containing harrowing descriptions of the acute beatings and sexual abuse they endured.

“[Those letters] weighed quite heavily on me, it was the first time I’d received letters like that along my travels. So, for the last few months I’ve taken time to try and educate myself,” the 36-year-old British driver mentioned Thursday.

Hamilton took the knee at each race final 12 months to battle in opposition to racism, and says he’ll achieve this once more this season.

“I think what’s really important is that young children are watching what we’re doing, and when they see us take the knee, they will sit and ask their parents or their teachers: `What are they taking the knee for?”‘ Hamilton mentioned. “It sparks an uncomfortable conversation [and] it means parents have to educate themselves, and the kids are getting educated.”

However Hamilton acknowledged that he needed to study way more about Bahrain.

“Because coming here all these years, I wasn’t aware of all of the human rights issues,” he mentioned. “I [have] spent time speaking to legal human rights experts, speaking to human rights organizations like Amnesty [International]. I’ve seen the UK ambassador here in Bahrain, and I’ve spoken to Bahrain officials.”

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One of many letters despatched to Hamilton final November was from Mohammed Ramadhan, who’s on demise row. After supporting Bahrain’s pro-democracy rebellion, he was allegedly framed in a homicide case and crushed with iron bars to extract his confession.

Ramadhan’s 11-year-old son Ahmed reached out personally to Hamilton, drawing an image of his F1 Mercedes automotive and sending it to him final December, together with a private written plea: “Lewis, Please save my father.”

Mom-of-four Najah Yusuf additionally wrote to Hamilton, detailing abuses she’d suffered by the hands of officers from Bahrain’s Nationwide Safety Company.

The opposite letter author, Ali AlHajee, stays imprisoned in Jau Jail — which is situated not removed from Sakhir’s F1 monitor — after organizing pro-democracy protests.

These claims are each deceptive and unfaithful. The circumstances cited have completely no reference to F1,” the Bahraini government’s National Communication Centre said in an email to The Associated Press. “The federal government of Bahrain has a zero-tolerance coverage in direction of mistreatment of any form and has put in place internationally acknowledged human rights safeguards. Any complaints are totally investigated and motion taken the place any proof of mistreatment is discovered.”

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On Wednesday, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) sent new F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali an open letter co-signed by 61 British lawmakers and 24 rights groups. They asked him to ensure F1 establishes an independent inquiry into abuses linked to the race, and to meet with victims and rights groups to secure compensation.

“We now have engaged intimately with BIRD and parliamentarians lately and have raised the issues mentioned,” Domenicali wrote in his response, which BIRD shared with The Associated Press on Thursday. “Nevertheless, it is very important clarify that Formulation 1 isn’t a cross-border investigatory organisation. … Not like governments and different our bodies, we aren’t capable of undertake the actions you request, and it will not be applicable for us to faux we will. “

BIRD also sent a letter to German driver Sebastian Vettel, asking him to carry a message of solidarity with Bahraini political prisoners on his Aston Martin helmet at Sunday’s race. At last season’s Turkish GP, the four-time F1 champion had a message of diversity and inclusion on his race helmet.

“Your helmet [at the Turkish GP] bore the slogans `Collectively as One’ and ‘No borders, simply horizons – solely freedom,” BIRD wrote to Vettel via his team. “But for a lot of in Bahrain, freedom stays a distant dream.”