For Immediate Release: June 12, 2013
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First applauds Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MI) for re-introducing his bill to limit assistance to provide tear gas and other riot control items to Middle Eastern and North African countries undergoing democratic transitions. The measure, H.R. 4310, was introduced as an amendment to the NDAA on the House floor this week and calls for stricter oversight of such lethal equipment by requiring the Secretary of Defense to proactively certify that the security forces of such government are not using excessive force to repress peaceful, lawful, and organized dissent.
“Congressman Ellison proposes a common sense approach to arms sales,” said Human Rights First’s Robyn Lieberman. “By screening for excessive force against peaceful protest, the amendment sets forth the proposition that the U.S. withhold the sale of crowd control items from human rights violators, rather than waiting for them to use U.S. weapons to commit abuses. It’s time that U.S. arms transfers got in line with U.S. policy goals.”
In 2011, the State Department confirmed that a shipment of American-made tear gas was approved to Egypt. It was later reported that the tear gas was used frequently against protesters by police during clashes in and around Tahrir Square.
“The U.S. provides $1.2 billion of foreign military financing to Egypt each year, including an export license and contract for the shipment of nonlethal riot control agents. U.S. policy is to support a democratic transition in Egypt, yet recent events, including the recent conviction of 43 NGO workers, including 19 Americans, signals that Egypt is going in the wrong direction, concluded Lieberman. “U.S. arms sales to Egypt have to be re-imagined and re-structured in light of these events. Congressman Ellison’s bill is a faithful effort to try to control that wild weapons flow.”