ADHRB joined 25 organizations today in a letter to House Members urging their support for legislation that would prohibit US arms sales to countries where weapons are at risk of being used to commit or facilitate human rights abuses. Introduced by Rep. Raul Grijalva, the bill, known as the Arms Sale Responsibility Act (H.R. 5749), currently has 22 cosponsors. This legislation was introduced in May, just days after the Obama administration resumed arms sales to Bahrain after temporarily halting them in October.
A report [pdf] released last November by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry–an investigative body established by the Government of Bahrain–confirms that Bahraini security forces used excessive force against protestors during protests last year, using shotguns and tear gas to suppress pro-democracy demonstrators. According to a report released yesterday by Physicians for Human Rights, titled “Weaponzing Tear Gas: Bahrain’s Unprecedented Use of Toxic Chemical Agents Against Civilians” [pdf], tear gas continues to be used against Bahrainis, often in large quantities and in enclosed spaces, posing serious health consequences to civilians. The report notes that some of the toxic chemical agent canisters used against Bahraini protestors appear to have been manufactured by US companies.
In testimony submitted to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission at yesterday’s hearing on Bahrain, ADHRB Director Husain Abdulla urged legislators and the administration to reconsider providing military assistance to the Government of Bahrain until greater human rights reforms are achieved. The Arms Sale Responsibility Act would, among other things, require the president to certify that foreign governments are not engaging in gross human rights violations before any defense articles may be transferred.