OECD complaint against Land Rover, Rolex and HPower Group – Crowdfunding launched

DPG’s client Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) has launched a CrowdJustice drive to challenge the decision of the organiser and main sponsors of the Royal Windsor Horse Show to celebrate the King of Bahrain at the event, in in light of the country’s suppression of pro-democracy campaigners and human rights abuses.

The horse show is a prominent annual equestrian event of which Her Majesty The Queen is a Patron. For several years, it has hosted the King of Bahrain as a guest of honour alongside the Queen and carried prominent signage and other associations with the Bahraini authorities, including accepting the King’s sponsorship of the ‘King’s Cup’ race.

BIRD’s complaint is twofold: firstly, by celebrating the Bahraini state in this way, the race is contributing to its efforts to rehabilitate its image internationally in the face of ongoing serious human rights abuses. Secondly, the race has a direct impact on pro-democracy campaigners through the detention of protesters families in advance of key events. In 2017, protesters who planned to attend were called by family members in Bahrain who had been arrested by the police and told to call their relatives to persuade them to call of protests.  They were only released after the events had finished.

BIRD has therefore lodged a complaint with the UK’s National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, pursuant to which companies are required to respond regarding potential human rights impacts and to come to agreement with complainants, or face the prospect of a negative report that is ministerially approved and added to the House of Commons and House of Lords records. Complaints in which this firm have acted in the past have led to the formulation of human rights policies by notable corporations and the cessation of export of equipment used in human rights abuses. Other complaints have led to payments of compensation to affected individuals.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD, has stated: “The human rights abuses that were committed in the UK and Bahrain should demonstrate to the organisers of the Royal Windsor Horse Show, and their sponsors – which include Rolex and Land Rover – that, by rolling out the red carpet for Kind Hamad, they are complicit in abuse. The fact that these companies are continuing their affiliation with the Horse Show after these events calls into question their commitment to human rights. They must be held accountable for their complicity.”

Daniel Carey, solicitor at DPG, commented: “If the organisers of sporting events choose to celebrate the head of a state with a terrible human rights track record, then it is not good enough to claim that sport transcends politics. Human rights abusing states are using set piece events to rehabilitate their reputations, even here in the UK, and companies need to respond to this. My client hopes that the OECD system will now recognise this.”

BIRD is represented in the OECD Complaint by Daniel Carey and Emily Soothill. For media coverage of the case, see here and the Sunday Telegraph (29-4-18). For more information about the OECD Guidelines and their role in preventing human rights abuses, see here.