For Immediate Release: October 13, 2011
Washington, DC – Human Rights First commends the leadership shown by Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland), Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pennsylvania), Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), Senator Robert Menendez (D- New Jersey) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), as they fight to halt the proposed arms sale to Bahrain. The Senators sent a joint letter to Secretary Clinton this week urging the delay of a proposed arms sale to Bahrain in light of the country’s ongoing repression of peaceful demonstrations.
“Completing an arms sale to Bahrain under the current circumstances would weaken U.S. credibility at a critical time of democratic transition in the Middle East,” the letter reads. “We urge you to send a strong signal that the United States does not condone the repression of peaceful demonstrators by delaying the possible arms sale until the Bahraini government releases its political prisoners, addresses the independent commission’s recommendations, and enters into meaningful dialogue with Bahraini civil society and opposition groups.”
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.
A resolution introduced by Sen. Wyden last week 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 Brian Dooley of Human Rights First.” 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.”