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Freedom House opposes US arms sale

(Freedom House/IFEX) - 30 January 2012 - Freedom House opposes the Obama Administration's decision to move forward with an arms sale to Bahrain as that government continues to repress peaceful demonstrations for political reform. On Friday, the U.S. announced that it would move forward with a limited sale of military items to the Bahraini government after a larger, $53 million sale was put on hold due to opposition in the U.S.

“Even a limited sale of military items to the Bahraini Government sends the wrong message,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “Until the Bahraini Government ends systemic human rights abuses, allows unfettered access to media and international organizations, and begins implementing meaningful political reform, the United States should not consider the sale of any military items.”

Bahraini authorities have committed widespread human rights abuses, including the systematic use of torture against detainees, since protests began last February. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), an investigatory unit set up by the ruling Bahraini monarchy, recommended reforms in November that have not yet been implemented. Since the BICI report was released, crackdowns continue and at least ten protesters have been killed by Bahraini authorities. Additionally, staff from human rights organizations, including Freedom House, have been denied entry into the country.

Because the new arms sale is being broken up into multiple small pieces, it does not fall under Congressional notification requirements and details do not have to be made public. 

“By breaking up the sale of these items into small packages, the Administration is sidestepping the important process of Congressional oversight and public disclosure,” said Charles W. Dunne, director for Middle East and North Africa programs at Freedom House. “The Administration's assurances that these items cannot be used against protesters do not suffice.”

The U.S. Congress has expressed strong opposition to the sale of arms to Bahrain under current circumstances. Bills introduced in the House and Senate prohibiting the original arms sale proposed in November have the support of more than 20 Members of Congress. 

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