Hamilton urges more action on human rights after letter from death row inmate

2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton has called on those in positions of power to do more to improve human rights in countries such as Saudi Arabia, where Formula 1 is racing this weekend.

Following reports 81 men were executed in Saudi Arabia on a single day earlier this month, Hamilton revealed he had been contacted by Abdullah al-Howaiti, who is on death row in Saudi Arabia.

Howaiti was sentenced to death in 2019 over a robbery which occured three years earlier, when he was 14, which his family insist he was not involved in.

“It’s obviously mind-blowing to hear the stories,” said Hamilton during Friday morning’s FIA press conference. “I’ve heard that there’s a letter sent to me, for example, from a 14-year-old that’s on death row. At 14 you don’t know what the hell you’re doing in life.”

Last year Hamilton described Saudi Arabia’s legislation against its LGBTQ+ community as “terrifying.” Yesterday he said: “My position’s still the same as when I spoke last year. There’s not really a lot that I can say that’s going to make any difference.”

“We don’t decide where we go,” he added. “But I think we do have an opportunity to try. We’re duty bound to try and do what we can while we’re here.

“It’s not necessarily our responsibility, us up here that are brought here, but we try to do what we can. And it’s important we just try to educate ourselves and with the little bit of difference that we can try to make, make sure we are doing something.

“But ultimately, it’s the responsibility those of those that are in power to really make the changes and we’re not really seeing enough so we need to see more.”

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“It shouldn’t be our responsibility to do that but it is obviously a very, very complex situation,” he added. “But I’m always open to having discussions to try to understand exactly why the things that are happening are happening and why they’re not changing.

“Because it’s 2022. It’s easy to make changes. I’m open to doing that. I don’t know who I would have to speak to exactly, but I’d love to see that.”

British prime minister Boris Johnson recently visited Saudi Arabia, Hamilton noted. “I know that Boris has been over here recently. I heard human rights was raised during that but what was said, what’s being done. I’ve not heard about that.”

Daniel Ricciardo said he has tried to learn more about the human rights problems in countries like Saudi Arabia.

“Even from being here last year to till now, it’s only a few months but I feel I’ve tried to at least understand a bit more and learn a bit more about it,” said the McLaren driver. “So if speaking to a group of people could help then why not?

“But I think for now probably just the best thing is to remain open-minded and see where there is room for change here and if participating in certain things helps then I think we’re very [open] to do so.”

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2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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17 comments on “Hamilton urges more action on human rights after letter from death row inmate”

  1. Unrelated but where has the sub-menu gone in the main racefans menu button? Usually we’d have a ‘Saudi GP’ drop down menu where you can quickly find the TV times article etc.

    1. I wonder when Lewis Hamilton will start to talk about the even more serious human rights abuses committed by, say, the UK or the US. Oh, wait…

  2. It’s interesting to note that almost all the drivers, teams and organizers took to their social media to talk about Ukraine but as far as I can tell, nothing has been said as “official statement” regarding human rights in Saudi Arabia (or anywhere else for that matter).

    If you’re gonna talk politics and human crisis, talk about everything. Not whatever fits your agenda only.

        1. -infinity

    1. I’m sorry that F1 driver’s can’t live up to your standards of human rights crusaders.

    2. Let’s assume positive intent. And let’s use it as an opportunity to broaden the debate not minimize efforts of those actually doing work we can’t or won’t.

    3. RandomMallard
      26th March 2022, 13:58

      I mean I wouldn’t feel too comfortable tweeting about human rights (or missile attacks as it’s topical) in Saudi Arabia while in Saudi Arabia. Of course I would love them to speak out more about it, but considering their track record I would wait until I was out of the country first. As @dmw says above, let’s assume positive intent.

  3. You’re an a-h0le, noted. What can you expect from a ru$$ian or belaru$ian.

  4. Boris Johnson visited Saudi Arabia and the UAE for oil diplomacy. He wanted them to join the western-led coalition’s actions against Russia. Both countries refused to raise oil production which was expected as Saudi Arabia has announced previously that their oil deals status with Russia will not change despite the war. It’s true that human rights issues were raised maybe to put pressure on the Saudis, but in reality Boris Johnson couldn’t care less.

    Human rights record in Israel is far worse than any other country in the middle east as documented and described by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as an apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Though no one from the western moralists (USA, EU, UK…) calling rightly for the Russian invasion of Ukraine to end seem to have the same courage to speak about what’s happening to the Palestinians.

    1. Also, note that since 2015 the UK has sold at least £20bn worth of bombs, planes, missiles etc to Saudi (some used in Yemen) so Boris may just have been doing some more sales pitch for death creating devices on top of the oil begging. Of course, this gets justified by saying that if the UK doesn’t sell them arms, someone else will.
      I expect the world will do as much as they did after the Khashoggi murder i.e. nothing, after a few tut-tuts.

    2. As I’m sure you are aware to talk about Palestine in the West is to be branded anti-West, anti-semitic, anti-Christian (US evangelicals somehow side with Israel in this issue), terrorism-friendly, and “woke.” It’s not easy.

  5. That’s why F1 has to travel to these countries, to start these discussions,
    it may seem of little effect but it’s better than alienating these countries and leaving them to do whatever they want without the west even acknowledging these human rights issues.

    1. No it is neither important, nor right to treat such countries as if everything was just fine and normal.
      There is a popular example of a highly restrictive, totalitarian, hostile regime that hosted 2 Olympic Games and nothing improved in between both events.

      1. … being awarded cultural events of global magnitude shall be a reward for following & advancing global rule of law and basic human rights (ideally even more than just basic rights)

        And basically everyone knows this; all divergent BlaBla are attempts to justify a intended superiority of commerce over civilisation — which can never prevail. Those who try it anyway will be judged by history.
        Thomas Bach will not be remembered as an important protagonist of global culture/sport; nor as a heroic fighter for the good, so far is clear.

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