Rights group chides US arms sale to Bahrain
Published Wednesday, May 16, 2012
A Bahraini rights group urged the US to reconsider its planned arm sales to Bahrain citing continued human rights violations with the use of US-made weapons.
Washington lifted its freeze on supplying arms to Bahrain last week after initially raising concerns that US weapons were being used by Bahraini authorities to brutally suppress pro-democracy protesters.
Locally based rights group Bahrain Watch said the deal was "problematic" as it did not take into account Bahrain's ongoing violent crackdown on the uprising.
"Arms sales to Bahrain’s government are problematic, as the government has failed to address continuing human rights violations and implement promised reforms," the rights group said in a statement.
Protests persist in Bahrain, with reports continuing to emerge that authorities have intensified their crackdown in recent weeks following the Formula One Grand Prix last month.
But that has not stopped the US from proceeding with its arms transfer to Bahrain, which the State Department says is to help Bahrain "maintain its external defense capabilities."
The Pentagon is to sell a frigate and other coast guard vessels to the Gulf state's military, along with upgraded engines for F-16 fighters.
The sale also includes a refurbishment for Bahrain’s fleet of US-made Cobra helicopters.
Bahrain Watch noted that US weapons had been used and continue to be deployed by authorities to suppress protesters, contravening US law that imposes strict conditions on the use of its arms in causing human rights abuses.
The rights group "documented the deployment and use of various US-origin weapons over the past year by both the police and BDF."
"Bahrain Watch believes that misuse of US-origin weapons in Bahrain may have been responsible for at least three deaths and numerous injuries," the statement read.
The US had not conducted any inspections to determine whether Bahrain was complying with the terms of not deploying US-made weapons, the rights group alleged.
Mass protests began in February 2011 aimed at pushing democratic reform in the US-backed autocratic Gulf state.
Saudi Arabia sent troops in March 2011 to help Bahraini authorities crush the violence, and maintain a presence in the state.
Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have touted this week the possibility of forging a union to contain the pro-democracy uprising.
Washington has been relatively silent on the Bahraini uprising, in comparison to repeated US statements for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down for his own crackdown on protesters there.
Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet and serves as a strategic ally on the doorstep of Iran.