Bahrain Grand Prix motors on as Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone says: 'What human rights? – I don't know what they are'

 

A heavy police presence on the streets of Bahrain ensured that pro-democracy protests did not disrupt the country’s controversial Grand Prix today – which activists had argued should not have taken place due to widespread human rights abuses by the ruling monarchy.

Protesters burnt tyres to block several roads on the outskirts of the capital city of Manama today while scores of police cars and armoured vehicles protected the Sakhir circuit, where the world champion Sebastian Vettel took victory. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said several small protests were broken up by security forces throughout the day in the villages of Sanabis, al-Daih and Jidhafs, where police arrested 13 protesters. The group said police had fired tear gas at a secondary school where students were demonstrating. 

Activists from the largely Shia opposition groups held a number large-scale demonstrations in the run-up to the race, calling for its cancellation due to alleged human rights abuses by the ruling Sunni minority monarchy. The opposition reported widespread arrests in the days preceding the race as the government sought to avoid a repeat of the kind of violence that led to the race being cancelled in 2011.

Rights groups say 80 people have been killed since pro-democracy protests inspired by the Arab Spring broke out in the country in February 2011, including one man in protests against last year’s Grand Prix. Despite pressure from the country’s opposition groups and from a number of British MPs, Formula One’s organisers refused to consider cancelling the race. Speaking to reporters on Saturday, the Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone said it wasn’t his job to question the laws of every country they visit.

“We don’t go anywhere to judge how a country is run,” he said. “I keep asking people, ‘What human rights?’ – I don’t know what they are,” he said. “The rights are that people who live in the country abide by the laws of the country, whatever they are.”

Sayed Yousif al-Muhafda of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights criticised the race’s organisers yesterday for ignoring human rights abuses in the country.

“The Bahraini government want to show the world that there is no problem here, but there is a crackdown and a revolution in Bahrain. People are calling for democracy and being killed,” he said. 

Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman al-Khalifa had called for calm ahead of the race. “What I would like to say is: let’s focus on what’s positive, let’s build upon the platform that we have, and let’s celebrate this event with Bahrainis who are really passionate,” he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash