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For Immediate Release

US Should Halt Weapon Sales to Bahrain Until Verdicts Are Set Aside

Cambridge, Mass - 09/30/2011

In response to the harsh sentences handed down on Thursday against 20 doctors in Bahrain after deeply flawed trials, PHR calls on the US Administration to withdraw immediately from any further congressional consideration of a proposed arms sale worth 53 million USD to the Kingdom of Bahrain until full accountability for human rights violators has been established and basic human rights protections have been achieved.

In mid-September, the US Administration formally notified Congress of its intention to pursue a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) package with Bahrain, which includes Armored High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles, missiles and related equipment, parts, and military training. This notification triggers a 30-day window during which Congress may object to the proposal. Without action by Congress during this time period, the sale will automatically take place.

Completing the sale of this military equipment at this time would severely undermine efforts to set aside the verdicts against the 20 doctors—individuals who, according to PHR sources, were tortured and abused in detention.

“We are also concerned that the proposed sale includes weapons that could be used against civilian protestors,” said Chief Policy Officer Hans Hogrefe.  

PHR applauds the US State Department for expressing its strong concerns regarding the fairness of the trials of the Bahraini doctors and for its objection to trying the civilians in military courts. We now urge the State Department to follow through on its statement by delaying the proposed arms sale in consultation with the Department of Defense.

The Administration should not seek Congressional approval for this sale of military items until it is fully satisfied that the Bahraini government has

  1. sought accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations, including acts of torture and abuse of detainees,
  2. reinstated protections for medical facilities and personnel based on the principle of medical neutrality,
  3. conducted judicial proceedings in accordance with international legal obligations,
  4. released all political prisoners,
  5. reinstated employees dismissed from their jobs for political reasons, and
  6. made significant and meaningful steps toward inclusive dialogue and democratic reforms.

Should the Administration proceed with its intention to deliver these military items to Bahrain and ignore its own documentation of egregious human rights violations in this Gulf country, PHR strongly urges Congress to object to the sale.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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