UK drops restrictions on Bahrain arms sales: report

Published Friday, July 13, 2012

The United Kingdom has dropped restrictions on arms sales to Bahrain despite the ongoing oppression in the Gulf state, a British magazine reported on Friday.

The British government cancelled several arms deals with the state after Manama began a harsh crackdowns on popular protests in February 2011.

But later in the year British officials issued the country invitations to military exhibitions, after intense lobbying and an official request from Bahrain, documents obtained by Private Eye magazine reveal.

Officials also arranged meetings between British arms contractors and the Bahraini authorities, the magazine said.

On Friday the British parliament's Committee on Arms Export Controls issued a report expressing concern that current arms deals to Bahrain ignored rules on the country banning exports that might be used for internal repression.

Select committee chairman John Stanley said the government needed to make "significantly more cautious judgments on the export of arms."

"Bahrain is self-evidently a very sensitive country, given the very serious human rights violations that took place there," said Stanley. "There have been very serious human rights violations involving doctors and nurses."

On Monday, the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to three months in jail for tweets deemed offensive to the country's autocratic rulers.

Bahraini authorities announced tough new penalties for assaulting security officers on Thursday, ranging from automatic detention to life imprisonment, according to the state-run Gulf Daily News.

Said Yousif, deputy head of the BCHR, told Al-Akhbar protests were continuing in the country, including in the capital Manama despite a ban by the government.

"In the US and the UK, many protest in London and Washington. So why, when it comes to Bahrain, do we have to protest in the villages?" said Yousif.

Condemning the continued UK arms sales, Yousif said the government "will not use it on Iran; they will not use it for any threats from outside Bahrain. They will use it on protesters."

"The people of Bahrain are disappointed," he added.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)

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