Bernie Ecclestone has been advised to think carefully about plans to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix on the 2011 F1 schedule, as tensions in the Gulf state show no sign of abating.
US-based Human Rights Watch has said that the deteriorating situation in Bahrain should mitigate against the race being slotted back into the calendar, but Ecclestone appeared unconcerned when asked about the likely outcome of next week's meeting on the issue [see story here
]. The FIA is due to make a decision whether or not the event will take place later this year when it meets on 3 June, and Ecclestone has already hinted that other rounds could be shuffled in order to accommodate a return to Sakhir.
The Bahrain race, which was due to open the 2011 season, was cancelled amid safety concerns once anti-government protests turned violent, and F1 teams never actually set foot in the country, even though they had been scheduled to test at Bahrain International Circuit prior to the race. The GP2 Series field, however, had to be evacuated from Bahrain, having been present for an Asia Series double-header when the uprising took hold in February.
Although the ruling Al-Khalifa family insists that it is doing all it can to bring the race back in 2011, claims of human rights abuses continue to dog the situation, and HRW has now said that Ecclestone and the FIA need to think very carefully about whether staging an F1 event in the midst of the chaos is, ethically, the right thing to do.
"Racing officials should seriously consider the appropriateness of holding an F1 event this year in Bahrain in light of the scale of human rights violations there," a statement insisted, highlighting reports of 'large-scale arbitrary arrests, prolonged incommunicado detentions, credible allegations of torture, and mass dismissals of workers' among the majority Shi'ite population since the Sunni Muslim-run administration attempted to counter anti-government protests. Staff at BIC were among those to find themselves ousted from their roles as recently as this week [see story here
Martial law, which has witnessed the destruction of Shi'ite mosques amongst other acts, has been in place since March, but is due to be lifted on Tuesday, two days before the FIA meets to discuss the fate of the race. According to Reuters
, the government claims to have released 515 people from detention last week, and insists that cases of abuse in detention are isolated and subject to investigation. Local rights activists, however, believe that in excess of 1000 people remain in detention, and highlight ongoing military trials as proof that the situation is unlikely to change in the near future.
Ecclestone has suggested that the inaugural Indian GP could be moved to the end of the 2011 schedule to make room for Bahrain, while also allowing organisers extra time to ensure that the Buddh International circuit is ready for F1 [see story here