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March 30, 2017

Congress Urged to Check Administration's Actions, Block Sale of F-16s to Bahrain

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today condemned the Trump Administration’s decision to move forward with the sale of 19 F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain, despite the Bahraini regime’s failure to meet human rights conditions attached to the deal. The move continues a series of concerning departures from maintaining the protection of human rights as a core purpose of U.S. foreign policy. Bahrain, which houses the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, has a storied history of repression of civil society and human rights abuses. Human Rights First calls on Congress to block the three-billion-dollar deal.

“This is a bad deal for the United States and it’s a bad deal for the people of Bahrain,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have taken action against this deal in the past—they now have the opportunity to exercise enlightened leadership and serve as a check on the president’s poor decisions.” 

Congressional alarm halted arms transfers to Bahrain in 2011 as bipartisan group in Congress led by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ron Wyden (D-WA) and Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) recognized that the move would threaten U.S. national interests, including the safety of the Fifth Fleet, anchored in the tiny Gulf nation. The halt helped produce a period of relative calm and the release of some political prisoners. Since the State Department allowed the resumption of sales to Bahrain’s military in June 2015, the situation has become significantly more violent and unstable. Prior to the announcement, Senator Wyden wrote to the White House opposing the sale. 

Human Rights First urges the White House and Congress to press Bahrain to release peaceful dissidents such as prominent human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, and to engage in meaningful political dialogue.

“This sale will send exactly the wrong signal to the dictatorship: that it will receive the weapons no matter how brutally political opponents are treated,” added Dooley. "Instead, the White House should take action to stop this political crackdown, which is not just morally acceptable but also dangerous, fueling the country's instability." 

For more information or to speak with Dooley, contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.