Rights groups condemn US sale of weapons to Bahrain

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The US decided on Wednesday to ignore Bahrain’s human rights record in order to sell F-16 fighter jets to the Arab monarchy.

Rights groups have said that the US sale of weapons to Bahrain is tantamount to condoning the abuses committed by the Manama regime.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has decided to ignore Bahrain’s human rights record in order to sell F-16 fighter jets to the Arab monarchy.

The US State Department informed Congress on Wednesday that it plans to approve a request by the Persian Gulf nation to purchase 19 of the jets from Lockheed Martin worth up to $2.7 billion.

Rights groups warned Washington about the sale of F-16 fighter jets to the Bahraini regime.

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on the US Congress to use its authority and block the deal.

"If they lift the conditions, they're saying we don't think you need to reform, and the Bahrainis have a free pass to continue cracking down,” said Sarah Margon, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch.

Sarah Margon, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch

The director of the rights group Reprieve said that “President Trump’s overtures to Bahrain send a worrying message” while the kingdom is in the middle of unprecedented repression at home.

"Political protesters have been tortured and sentenced to death on the basis of forced 'confessions'—and the Bahraini government just resumed executions after a 7-year moratorium. Meanwhile, Bahraini authorities continue to threaten dissidents, and subject scores of political detainees to horrific abuses,” said Maya Foa.

Also, Amnesty International warned on Wednesday that the sale could make the US complicit in the war crimes committed by the Bahraini regime.

"While getting weapons from the US, Bahrain's government is silencing critics at home and participating in a military coalition that is bombing civilians in Yemen," said Sunjeev Bery, an advocacy director with Amnesty International USA.

"This deal sends a dangerous signal to Bahrain and all other countries that engage in serious human rights violations. It is particularly galling to arm these governments while simultaneously barring those fleeing violence entrance to the US. These deals place the US at risk of being complicit in war crimes, and discourage other countries, like Saudi Arabia, from addressing their own human rights records,” he stated.

Bahraini protesters run for cover from tear gas during clashes with riot police in the village of Sitra, south of the capital Manama, on January 29, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifah family has been leading a ruthless crackdown against domestic dissent since 2011, killing scores of protesters with Saudi Arabia’s help.

Bahrain is home to the US Navy's 5th Fleet. Last year, the UK celebrated the 200th anniversary of mutual relations with the Arab kingdom by opening a massive Royal Navy base there.

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