Human rights campaigners have met with Berine Ecclestone to call on him to condemn the human rights abuses by the Azerbaijani government. It understood that they spoke to Sacha Woodward-Hill, F1’s head of legal and an close ally of the 85-year-old attended the meeting along with one other aide.
A report by Human Rights Watch last year claims that there “dramatic deterioration in its already poor rights record” But the campaigners have not called for a boycott of the race. Formula One has been no strangers to controversies racing in apartheid South Africa, going to Bahrain following the uprising and not condemning Russia on the shooting down of MH17 and gay rights.
Last year FOM published a ‘Statement of Commitment to Respect for Human Rights’, something deemed “commendable” by Phil Bloomer, one of the panel on the ‘Sport for Rights’ campaign.
In a statement last year FOM said that “The Formula One Group is committed to respecting internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally.”
“Whilst respecting human rights in all of our activities, we focus our efforts in relation to those areas which are within our own direct influence.
But going to Baku angered the former US diplomat and coordinator of the Sport for Rights campaign Rebecca Vincent, a says “I do emphasise that it was a constructive meeting compared to our engagement with other bodies.”
Ecclestone himself has been making some unhelpful comments and we might be expecting some more of that because that seems to be his nature. But we will continue to engage with them and press Formula One in general to speak up publicly.”
An Azerbaijan official, who identified himself as being from the country’s embassy in London at the briefing, refutes the allegation saying that sporting events should not be the preserve of Western democracies.