F1 should go to countries with human rights issues

by Jun 20, 20210 comments


The addition of Saudi Arabia to the 2021 calendar has raised questions from human rights groups, while other venues such as Bahrain, China and Russia have also proved controversial in the past.

Todt said his road safety role with the United Nations has given him the opportunity to meet human rights experts who agreed that F1 should visit such countries.

“It’s something which is very dear to my heart,” he said. “And since now five years I’m very much involved with the UN as secretary general special envoy for road safety.

“If you see the high level panel I made on road safety, you have Michael Ellison, a former high commissioner for human rights.

“You have Michelle Bachelet, who is the actual high commissioner for human rights. You have Filippo Grandi, the high commissioner for refugees. So in a way, it’s a privilege I have to be discussing with them.

“Yesterday Stefano [Domenicali] came to visit me, and I had Jacques Toubon, former justice minister who has been until last year in charge of human rights in France, and I spoke with him about that.

“And everybody is in favour of having races wherever around the world. I mean, we are a sport.

“It’s also something I discussed very often with the International Olympic Committee, with Thomas Bach. Because they have the same problem. And clearly we consider that sport should not be involved with politics.”

Jean Todt, President, FIA

Jean Todt, President, FIA

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Todt stressed that the FIA should talk to human rights groups about the countries that races visit, and suggested that high profile events actually give them a chance to highlight issues.

“We need to engage with NGOs,” said Todt. “And I mean, good NGOs, like Human Rights Watch, who are proper people, to try to say, what kind of contribution we can give? So we are working, we’re working on that.

“You can interpret the way that it helps you. In my opinion, going in those countries gives also the chance for people who are negative about the country to speak, which probably they would not have otherwise.

“So, as I said, it’s a lot of question of interpretation. But, for me, I feel right.”

Todt confirmed that the FIA could veto schedule choices made by F1 and Liberty Media.

“Who is proposing the calendar? It’s the commercial rights holder. It would be unfair to say it’s only them, because we could tell them don’t go there. And they will follow us, so we do agree.

“Because at the end of the day, once a calendar is proposed, it goes to me, and to the World Council, who does agree, and I never recall having one guy say we should not go there. It’s a combined agreement, to go in those countries.”


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