US Acknowledges Bahrain's Repression, Wants to Send More Weapons Anyway

October 9, 2020 0 By HearthstoneYarns

Even as it admitted that human rights conditions in the country remain poor, the United States announced Monday it would lift holds on security assistance to Bahrain’s Defense Force and National Guard, put in place in 2011 following the state’s crackdown on Arab Spring demonstrators.

“It will confirm suspicions across the Middle East that legitimate concerns about human rights abuses and political repression will inevitably be trumped by short-term security concerns.”
—Stephen McInerney, Project on Middle East Democracy

“While we do not think that the human rights situation in Bahrain is adequate … we believe it is important to recognize that the government of Bahrain has made some meaningful progress on human rights reforms and reconciliation,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby. It was not immediately clear what sort of aid would be made available, though the State Department said “all arms transfers to Bahrain will continue to undergo review under the U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy.”

But Sarah Margon, Washington director of Human Rights Watch, said the decision to lift aid restrictions was “occurring in the absence of any real or meaningful political reform.” 

In fact, as the Washington, D.C.-based Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) noted in a press release on Monday: “The State Department’s Human Rights Report—released only last week—paints a bleak picture, expressing serious concerns with the lack of reform and limitations on the rights to free expression, assembly, association, and religion.”

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