F1 'concerned' by alleged treatment of Bahrain GP protester
Formula 1 has expressed concerns over the treatment of Najah Ahmed Yousif, a political activist who was jailed earlier this year after campaigning against the Bahrain Grand Prix. Ms Yousif was sentenced to three years in prison in June 2018 for "promoting terrorist acts" in opposing the 2017 Bahrain GP on social media.
The race in Sakhir has been met with local opposition ever since its controversial return to the F1 calendar in 2012, following the previous year's race being cancelled due to opposition surrounding the Bahraini uprising.
The uprising and its aftermath is estimated to have left more than 100 dead, while a continued government crackdown has sparked further controversy.
According to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Ms Yousif has been detained since April 2017 – a week after that year's grand prix – and has been subjected to physical and sexual assault.
Ms Yousif is quoted by BIRD as saying: "They insulted my honour and dignity, they physically assaulted me, removed my headscarf, tried to tear off my clothes, and touched my sexual organs."
In F1's Statement of Commitment to Respect for Human Rights, it states: "Formula 1 companies are committed to respecting internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally."
When BIRD brought the case to F1, it is claimed F1 Group replied: "The appropriate way for Ms. Yousif to pursue any grievance" is by complaining to Bahrain's Ministry of Interior Ombudsman, which "will investigate the matter independently".
The United Nations Committee against Torture says of Bahrain's Interior Ombudsman: "The Committee is concerned that those bodies are not independent, that their mandates are unclear and overlap, and that they are not effective given that complaints ultimately pass through the Ministry of the Interior. It is also concerned that their activities have had little or no effect, and that the authorities provided negligible information regarding the outcome of their activities."
Sacha Woodward Hill, general counsel for F1, said in a statement to UK peer Lord Scriven and BIRD published by The Guardian: "We are concerned by the citation in the court judgment of Ms Yusif's comment opposing the staging of the 2017 Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix. And we have raised our concerns with our counterparts in Bahrain, as part of our ongoing enquiries.
"Formula One is committed to respecting internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally. As part of our commitment we expect that commentators who may wish to use the occasion of a Formula One grand prix event to express opinions peacefully will be able to do so without punitive action, before, during or after the event."
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