May 16, 2012

No Investigation into Past Misuse of US-origin Helicopters, Armored Vehicles, and Rifles

[Manama] On 11 May 2012, the US State Department announced it would proceed with an arms sale to Bahrain. The sale is reported to include patrol boats, air defense systems, fighter jet parts, and night-vision equipment. The sale also includes refurbishment for Bahrain’s fleet of Cobra helicopters. The Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) opened fired on protesters from Cobra helicopters last year.

Arms sales to Bahrain’s Government are problematic, as the Government has failed to address continuing human rights violations and implement promised reforms. Bahrain Watch’s Government Inaction project details the Government’s continuing noncompliance with most of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).

Bahrain Watch has also documented the deployment and use of various US-origin weapons over the past year by both the police and BDF. US law limits the permitted uses of certain US-origin weapons, and requires that buyers submit to investigation, including on-site inspection, to verify compliance. Bahrain Watch believes that misuse of US-origin weapons in Bahrain may have been responsible for at least three deaths and numerous injuries. The US Government has not announced any investigation or on-site inspection relating to the misuse of US-origin weapons in Bahrain.

Details are included below about US-origin weapons that were deployed or used against protesters in possible violation of their permitted uses. Given the evidence presented, Bahrain Watch believes that the US Government should conduct an investigation to understand whether Bahrain has broken its obligations to the US before continuing with any arms sale.

Bell AH-1 Cobra Helicopters

The New York Times reported that the BDF opened fire on protesters from helicopters made by US company Bell Helicopter last year. New York Times journalist Michael Slackman and his cameraman also came under helicopter fire while reporting near the Pearl Roundabout last February. The US Government granted a number of Bell AH-1 helicopters to Bahrain between 1994 and 2005. The helicopters were granted at little or no cost to Bahrain under the DoD’s Excess Defense Articles program using 22 USC § 2314 grant authority (22 USC § 2314 is also known as Section 505 of the Foreign Assistance Act).

Continue reading here