ADHRB joined ten organizations this week in calling upon US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [pdf] to suspend security assistance and funding to Bahrain in light of credible reports of abuse by security forces there. The organizations also called on Secretary Clinton to offer assistance to Bahrain to help bring those human rights violators to justice.
Under a provision of US law commonly referred to as the “Leahy Law,” the US Government may not provide assistance to foreign security forces if “the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” According to a government-sanctioned report issued by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in November 2011, at least 35 people were killed by Bahraini security forces during the February-March 2011 protests. That number is now estimated by some groups to be closer to 90. Among the forces identified by the BICI for their complicity in civilian deaths are the Bahrain Defense Force (BDF), Ministry of Interior, and the National Security Agency (NSA).
A number of independent organizations have also documented evidence of gross human rights violations by Bahraini forces. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) recently reported that Bahraini police were firing tear gas canisters at protesters, inflicting blunt force trauma resulting in serious injury or death. Human Rights Watch (HRW) also documented beatings by police against protesters at the time of their arrest and during their transfer to a police station. Bahrain Watch has provided visual documentation of the use of US-supplied arms and other military items.
Pursuant to the Leahy Law, the US Government must investigate these reports of human rights abuse to determine which units engaged in the abuse, and if specific units cannot be ascertained, the US must suspend assistance to the larger entity involved–in this case, the BDF, police, or other security service. The US Government must also notify the Government of Bahrain of any units declared ineligible to receive US assistance pursuant to the Leahy Law.