On 14 January 2014, a group of NGOs sent a joint letter to FIA President Jean Todt regarding the human rights situation in Bahrain. The letter urged the FIA to suspend the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix until its Ethics Committee has held an inquiry to investigate the impact the Grand Prix has on the human rights situation in Bahrain. The letter was signed by a variety of human rights groups. They say that they have had no response to the letter.
The letter claims that there is a direct correlation between intensified crackdowns on civilians and protesters in the lead up to and during previous Formula 1 events, including enclosing villages in barbed wire, setting up an excessive amount of police checkpoints, firing a disproportionate amount of tear gas into residential areas, and imprisoning protesters. They also claim that journalists were denied access to or deported from Bahrain during the time of the Grand Prix and argue that the FIA has an ethical and moral responsibility to safeguard the integrity and reputation of motor sport worldwide by cancelling the Grand Prix until such abuses cease to exist.
In order for the Ethics Committee to meet there needs to be a complaint from an FIA member club, or its officers, members, or licence-holders or from officials, organisers, drivers, competitors or licence‐holders involved in an FIA activity. If that happens the FIA President decides if there is a need for a meeting of the Ethics Committee to discuss the issue and this then makes a report to the FIA President, who may act on the findings.
It is an interesting challenge because if the FIA does receive a complaint, it needs to react sensibly to ensure that its Ethics Committee structure remains credible. This is important as the Ethics Committee may face other questions in the future and if the body is seen as only involved when the FIA wants it to be, it will undermine the credibility of the process.