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Home / Press Release / Senate Bill Would Ban Arms Sales to Bahrain Based on Human Rights Conditions
August 07, 2015

Senate Bill Would Ban Arms Sales to Bahrain Based on Human Rights Conditions

Washington, D.C. - Human Rights First today welcomes the bipartisan introduction of legislation to impose a ban on the sale of arms to Bahrain. The bill was introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) following the State Department's recent lifting of the ban on weapons sales to the Bahrain Defence Force. 

“We applaud Senator Wyden and Senator Rubio’s leadership in taking action to rectify the administration’s terrible mistake by imposing a legislative ban on arm sales to the repressive Bahraini regime,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Rewarding the Bahraini regime with more arms at a time when Bahraini authorities continue to crack down on civil society, human rights activists, and peaceful dissent is the wrong thing to do. We are confident of wider congressional support for this bill.”

In June 2015 the State Department announced it would be lifting its ban that had been imposed in 2011 on the sale of weapons to the Bahrain Defence Force, citing “meaningful progress on human rights reforms.” Meanwhile, the Bahraini government has continued to target peaceful dissenters, opposition figures, and human rights defenders. Yesterday, Bahraini authorities announced the suspension of the only independent newspaper, Al Wasat. Several leading opposition figures and human rights activists remain in jail, and the Bahrain government’s failure to reform since widespread pro democracy protests broke out in February 2011 has resulted in years of instability.

The new bill would prohibit the sale to Bahrain of certain arms until the State Department certifies that Bahrain has fully implemented all of the recommendations made by the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), an inquiry commissioned by the king of Bahrain to investigate human rights violations in early 2011. Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) has confirmed he intends to introduce similar legislation in the House when it reconvenes after the break.

“Bahrain has evaded or stalled on implementing the vast majority of the BICI reforms, and this ban is the exactly the right message to send,” added Dooley.

For more information or to speak with Dooley, contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at [email protected] or 212-845-5269.