CALL FOR ACTION: Human rights activists are calling for Bernie Ecclestone to take action against the injustices in Azerbaijan. Image: AFP
London - Bernie Ecclestone is being asked to speak out about human rights, just over a week before Formula 1 sets up camp for the first time in Azerbaijan.
A year ago, just as the Azerbaijan capital Baku was added to the 2016 schedule, the F1 Group unveiled a new policy vowing to respect "human rights in all of our activities".
Azerbaijan has been constantly criticised by human rights bodies, for reasons including arbitrary arrests, indefinite detentions, beatings and torture.
Make a stand, Bernie
F1 supremo, Ecclestone, however, said in 2015: "I think everybody seems to be happy. Doesn't seem to be any big problem there."
But it now emerges in the British media that, while it was not Ecclestone himself, two representatives of his organisation met up with the 'Sport For Rights' human rights group.
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The group's chief, Rebecca Vincent, said: "We have called on Bernie Ecclestone to publicly speak out on human rights issues in Azerbaijan. We wrote him an open letter and there has not been a public response yet.
"I do emphasise that it was a constructive meeting compared to our engagement with other bodies, (but) Ecclestone himself has been making some unhelpful comments and we might be expecting some more of that because that seems to be his nature."
Another human rights campaigner also urged Ecclestone to "make a stand".
'No big problem'
Phil Bloomer, of the business and human rights resource centre, said: "We're not asking them to cancel the race, we're not calling on people not to go. We are asking Mr Ecclestone to use it to make a stand instead of enabling repression.
"He (Ecclestone) said in 2015 that there was no big problem with human rights in Azerbaijan, and people seemed happy. It takes just five minutes on Google to see what is really going on."
The only official comments about Baku by F1 authorities this week have been made by race director Charlie Whiting, who after an inspection gave the street track a ringing endorsement.
Whiting said: "I must say that the standards of the circuit built so far are absolutely superb and personally I am getting quite excited about the idea of coming here to race in a week's time."