HRW slams US for resuming military aid to Bahrain

NEW YORK: Human Rights Watch has strongly criticized a US decision to lift a ban on arms sales to Bahrain, where the ruling Al Khalifa regime continues its crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

The US-based rights group said on Thursday that the move by the administration of US President Barack Obama will encourage what it described as the Manama regime’s “unrelenting repression” of pro-democracy protesters.

“The Obama administration’s decision to resume arms sales will only encourage Bahraini authorities’ unrelenting repression,” said Sarah Margon, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch.

Earlier on June 29, the US State Department announced that Washington would resume its military aid to Bahrain due to what it claimed as progress on human rights issues there.

“While we do not think that the human rights situation in Bahrain is adequate…we believe it is important to recognize that the government of Bahrain has made some meaningful progress on human rights reforms and reconciliation,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

The US imposed a ban on security assistance to Bahrain in 2011, when the government’s crackdown on peaceful demonstrators left dozens dead and hundreds wounded or arrested.

The rights group also rejected Washington’s claim that it will lift the arms embargo due to “progress” on human rights issues in Bahrain, saying the prospect of reform and human rights improvements in the tiny Persian Gulf island nation “are now further away than ever.”

The rights group further noted that the Al Khalifa monarchy has held no senior official accountable for the 2011 killing of peaceful protesters.

“Whatever the real reasons for reviving these arms sales, it’s clear that the decision has not been taken in the interest of the people of Bahrain,” Margon pointed out.

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