The US is to resume military sales to Bahrain, suspended last year due to human rights concerns, the State Department announced May 11. The Obama administration notified Congress that certain sales would be allowed for Bahrain’s defense force, coast guard and national guard, although it would maintain a hold on TOW missiles and Humvees. “We have made the decision to release additional items to Bahrain mindful of the fact that there are a number of serious unresolved human rights issues that the government of Bahrain needs to address,” the State Department statement said. A scheduled $53 million sale was halted in October when members of Congress voiced concern about arming the dictatorship. At that time, the State Department assured Congress that it would take into account progress of human rights reforms in Bahrain before proceeding with the sale.
“This sale is completely out of step with the United States’ stated commitment to reform in Bahrain,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who recently returned from the kingdom and authored a new report released this week, “Bahrain’s Reforms: No Backdown on Crackdown.”
“The US can be in no doubt about the reality of the repression in Bahrain,” said Dooley. “Prominent human rights defenders are being harassed and jailed. Trials of medics convicted for treating injured protestors continue after tortured confessions. The police are still beating and tear gassing people. Where is the progress that warrants the reward of arms? This new sale will only damage US credibility among those working for democracy in Bahrain and across the Middle East.” (Reuters, Human Rights First, May 11)