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Bahrian Grand Prix draws human rights concern

BEIRUT, Lebanon, April 18 (UPI) -- Organizers of the Bahrain Grand Prix are ignoring human rights concerns in the host country, Human Rights Watch said.

Grand Prix events begin Friday in Bahrain with the race set for Sunday.

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The event last year was overshadowed by protesters frustrated with the policies of the Sunni-led monarchy. The 2011 edition of the race was canceled because of anti-government protests.

Scores of demonstrators were killed during an uprising in 2011. Several human rights leaders in Bahrain are behind bars for allegedly plotting against the government.

Human Rights Watch said a protester was "killed" by security forces during last year's race. Door-to-door raids and arrests have occurred in the weeks for before the event.

Human Rights Watch Director of Middle East programs at Human Rights Watch Sarah Leah Whitson said race organizers haven't made public statements on the situation in Bahrain.

"The Formula 1 organizers apparently prefer to bury their heads in the sand, risking holding their race against repression it has provoked," she said in a statement from Beirut.

The government banned public demonstrations briefly last year. It was condemned recently for considering legislation that would seemingly interfere with the work of civic organizations.

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Bahrain says it's committed to a series of reforms recommended by an inquiry probing the response to the 2011 uprising.

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