For Immediate Release: September 29, 2011
Washington, DC – Human Rights First has joined with a dozen other human rights organizations to urge members of the U.S. Congress to block a proposed arms sale of TOW missiles and Humvees to Bahrain.
“This prioritization of security interests over political reform stands in stark contrast to President Obama’s declaration of support in May to those protesting for freedom throughout the region, when he said: ‘If you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States,’” the group wrote to members of the House and Senate.
The Bahrain government continues to crack down on peaceful protest aimed at democratic reform. Bahrain is ruled by a monarchy where the king’s uncle has been the country’s unelected prime minister since 1971. The proposed arms sale would be the first from the U.S. since Bahrain’s mass protests for reform in February 2011 and the subsequent violent crackdown by the government.
Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley visited Bahrain twice over the summer and found that during the recent crackdown, more than 1000 people were detained and there are widespread reports of torture. At least four people have died in custody and thousands more people have been fired because of their alleged connection to the protests. Civilians continue to be tried by military courts and heavy prison sentences handed out.
The letter to the U.S. Congress asks members to take a series of actions against the sale, noting, “We urge you to speak out immediately and take meaningful action to block this sale. Under Section 36 of the Arms Export Control Act, we request that you and other members of Congress pass a joint resolution of disapproval to prohibit the proposed sale. We encourage you to seek a detailed justification from the Administration for the proposed sale. In addition, you should request a formal briefing from the Department of State on how this sale will affect the process of political reform and accountability for serious human rights violations in Bahrain, and how this sale will affect public sentiment toward the United States and its presence in Bahrain.”
The full text of the letter is available here.