For Immediate Release: October 7, 2011
Washington, DC – Human Rights First commends the leadership shown by Representative Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) as they fight to halt the proposed arms sale to Bahrain. McGovern and Wyden have introduced resolutions disapproving of a Department of Defense proposal to sell $53 million worth of weapons to Bahrain.
“When so many U.S. political figures have failed to respond to the calls for democracy in Bahrain, Senator Wyden and Congressman McGovern have taken a stand against the Bahraini dictatorship’s brutal crackdown against peaceful protestors,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “When democracy activists across the Middle East look to the U.S. for support, they are often disappointed that the Obama Administration’s actions do not match its rhetoric. Senator Wyden and Congressman McGovern are challenging the United States to remain true to values of democracy and human rights.”
Bahrain is ruled by a monarchy in which the king’s uncle has been the unelected prime minister for the last 40 years. Since peaceful pro-democracy protests began in Bahrain in February, the Bahrain government has cracked down violently on those supporting political freedom, arresting over 1,500 people. There are widespread, credible reports of torture and former detainees have told Human Rights First that during their custody they were tortured by the Bahraini military. Military courts have also convicted civilians and sentenced them to long prison terms. The Bahraini Government’s violent attacks on peaceful protests continue almost daily.
Senator Wyden’s resolution notes that the proposed arms sale to Bahrain is “at odds with United States foreign policy goals of promoting democracy ,human rights, accountability, and stability.” The move echoes steps taken by several European countries – including Belgium, France, Spain and the United Kingdom. Those nations have suspended arms sales to Bahrain since the crackdown.
“Supplying weapons to Bahrain would be a very dangerous signal that United States views the current situation in Bahrain as back to business as usual,” said Dooley.” Instead of promoting reform, this sale will only strengthen the Bahraini government’s hardliners, who will see no reason to let up their violent response to the protests.”