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  1. ITV Report

Bernie Ecclestone gives Azerbaijan all-clear to host F1 despite human rights record

Bernie has no qualms about Azerbaijan's shocking human rights record. Photo: PA

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has given Azerbaijan the all-clear ahead of its debut next season despite serious concerns over the country's human rights record.

Human Rights Watch's 2015 report on the former Soviet republic stated there had been "a dramatic deterioration in its already poor rights record" particularly in its treatment of opponents of the political regime.

However, Ecclestone maintains F1 has conducted its due diligence on Azerbaijan. The capital, Baku, will host a street race to be known as the European Grand Prix.

Asked whether Azerbaijan's human rights record would be checked, the 84-year-old replied: "We have.

"I think everybody seems to be happy. There doesn't seem to be any big problem there.

"There's no question of it not being on the calendar. It's going to be another good race."

Human rights protestors in Azerbaijan campaign to free a reporter. Credit: PA

The Human Rights Watch report on Azerbaijan for 2015 was pretty damning.

"The Azerbaijani government escalated repression against its critics, marking a dramatic deterioration in its already poor rights record," the report states.

"The authorities convicted or imprisoned at least 33 human rights defenders, political and civil activists, journalists, and bloggers on politically motivated charges, prompting others to flee the country or go into hiding.

"Authorities froze the bank accounts of independent civic groups and their leaders, impeded their work by refusing to register foreign grants, and imposed foreign travel bans on some.

"Many of those detained complained of ill-treatment in police custody. Many organisations, including several leading rights groups, were forced to cease activities."