For Immediate Release
PHR expresses its deep disappointment regarding today’s State Department announcement that the US will send military equipment to Bahrain. The Administration cited national security interests while stating that it was fully aware of the ongoing human rights violations at the hands of the Bahraini Government.
The Administration did not further clarify what specific national security interests of the United States would be served by providing some military items to Bahrain, given that the entire U.S. Fifth Fleet is already based in that country.
A previous arms sale worth $53 million was put on hold after an outcry from civil society groups and human rights leaders on Capitol Hill who are concerned by the worsening human rights situation in the country. The Administration’s military assistance to the Gulf Kingdom sends the wrong message to the people of Bahrain who continue to struggle for democracy and could prematurely ease the pressure on the Bahraini government to seriously and meaningfully implement the reform recommendations included in a report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.
In its statement today, the Administration acknowledged the ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain and noted the problematic use of tear gas by Bahraini security forces. PHR researchers recently returned from Bahrain, where they documented the rampant misuse of tear gas against protesters and ongoing attacks on civilians.
“Bahraini security forces are stepping up their attacks on civilians, using tear gas indiscriminately against men, women, and children and even firing canisters into homes,” said PHR Deputy Director Richard Sollom. “The attacks I saw confirmed that the Bahraini government has not made measurable success in ending attacks on civilians.”
Compounding the harm from tear gas attacks, the Government of Bahrain continues to militarize the country’s health care system as a means to intimidate protesters and others in need of medical care.
Sending weapons to a government that continues to attack its people diminishes US leadership on human rights. “The US has given away the bargaining power it had to push the Bahraini government to commit to genuine human rights improvements. Today the Administration demonstrated that human rights is not a priority in our relationship with Bahrain,” said Sollom.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.