For Immediate Release
Over the weekend, the US administration chose to move forward withthe sale of military equipment to Bahrain, despite the fact that tear gasassaults on minority Shi’a neighborhoods recently took the life of a 6-day-oldgirl and a 14-year-old boy.
Such a sale, even if it does not include weapons,sends the wrong message to the people of Bahrain who are protesting governmentoppression. PHR calls on the US government tounequivocally oppose violent government crackdowns and not reward governmentswith arms and military supplies when they are oppressing their own people.
In September 2011, the US administration notified Congress of a $53million arms deal to Bahrain that included significant weaponry. While theproposed arms deal cleared the required congressional notification process,human rights advocates and concerned citizens were outraged that this militarysale might occur even as the US government was expressing its deep concernover the Government of Bahrain’s attacks on civilians. Apparently recognizing this policycontradiction, the administration announced that it would delay the arms sale.
With the quiet revelation last Friday that the sale of militaryequipment would indeed take place, human rights observers are now forced toweigh the administration’s words against its actions.
“The US administration needs to understand the message that thissends to the people of Bahrain – that the US will continue to help theGovernment of Bahrain no matter what it does to its citizens,” said HansHogrefe, Chief Policy Officer at PHR. “The sale of military equipment at thisjuncture is just unnecessary. The US 5th Fleet provides stabilityto the region, and there is no discernible immediate threat to Bahrain thatwould require such action. Instead of sending military items to Bahrain, theUS should take a strong and unwavering stance against the Government ofBahrain’s use of force against civilians and should press for significant humanrights improvements in the country.”
The administration’s announcement of its sale of military items toBahrain comes at a time when the Government of Bahrain continues to suppresspeaceful opposition. PHR continues to hear from contacts within Bahrain of nightlyraids, abductions, and beatings at the hands of Bahraini security forces. Theintimidation and harassment of the medical profession also continues – justyesterday, two nurses were arrested for treating protesters. PHR continuescalls for the release of all detained medics who were involved in the treatmentof protestors.
Thedevelopments in today’s trial of 20 Bahraini medics accused of overthrowing theregime and other felonies only adds to the growing list of human rightsconcerns in Bahrain. During the trial session, the court informed thedefense team that it would convene a committee drawing upon the Ministry ofHealth, forensic doctors, and the University of Bahrain to analyze the medics’allegations of torture in detention.
“Any credible evaluation of the medics’ experience must be done byimpartial and highly-qualified forensic and medical experts” saidHogrefe. “The work of this committee must also adhere to the gold standard of tortureinvestigations – the UN Istanbul Protocol, the internationally-recognizedstandard for evaluating and documenting acts of torture.”
The US administration should embrace greater transparency regardingits dealings with Bahrain, especially since individuals across the USGovernment and civil society groups are actively monitoring the developmentsthere. Given the opposition of leading voices within Congress to the arms salesto Bahrain, the State Department should ensure that it fully engages withCongress and invites all members to detailed briefings on any pending sale ordistribution of military materials to Bahrain.
According to the State Department, the materials it will send toBahrain include items for “external defense” which cannot be used againstprotesters.
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.