Washington: Arms Ban Lift will not Include MOI...We Continue to Press Bahrain on Sheikh Ali Salman’s Case

2015-07-05 - 5:35 م

Bahrain Mirror: The US State Department spokesperson, John Kirby, said that the security assistance to Bahrain's ministry of defense would be normalized now but that restrictions on assistance to the ministry of interior would remain over human rights-related issues.

In response to questions, during the daily press briefing held in the US State Department building on Thursday (June 30, 2015), about the decision to go ahead and restore some military assistance to Bahrain at a time when numerous human rights activists, both in the US and abroad, say this undercuts the US ability to hold the Bahraini Government accountable for its human rights violations, Kirby said: "We believe it's important to recognize that Bahrain has made some progress on human rights reforms and reconciliation since the crackdown in 2011. At the same time - and we've been very honest about this, you can look at our Human Rights Report that went out last week - we don't think that the human rights situation in Bahrain is adequate, as the report makes clear."

"We're continuing to press Bahrain on numerous serious issues, including the recent sentencing of Sheikh Ali Salman," he added.

"Bahrain has implemented a number of important reforms, including some key recommendations made by the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). And they've recently released a number of prisoners, including many who were in prison for political activity, as well as the well-known secular political society leader Ibrahim Sharif. So we're going to continue to press our concerns with Bahrain, but we're also going to continue to press on a very important security relationship that matters in the region, and certainly not just the Gulf region but the Middle East writ large," the US spokesman highlighted.

Answering a question asking whether the US is going to be much more scrupulous or not; i.e. whether the US will only allow a certain kind of equipment to go to a particular part of the government, without access to other types of equipment because of the potential for abuse or not, Kirby said: "I think we made clear in the announcement was that the security assistance to the ministry of defense would be normalized now but that restrictions on assistance to the ministry of interior would remain. So equipment which will help Bahrain deal with terror threats in the region, but restrictions on the ministry of interior will remain."

"We believe the ministry of interior still has a lot more work to do in that regard in terms of human rights issues. The ministry of interior will still be held under these restrictions," he added.

Regarding how much the arms sales worth, Kirby stated:"It's difficult to say exactly right now because lifting the restrictions that were, what, four years old - it doesn't mean that this material was sort of shrink-wrapped and put in a warehouse somewhere and now we're just going to go ship it over there. The next step is to have a discussion with Bahraini leaders, determine what their needs are inside the ministry of defense. So I can't give you an exact dollar figure on what this lift is going to be, because we have to get with them, they have to tell us what they want."

Kirby went on to say that he doesn't suspect that "it's going to be more than what we were doing previously, which was about $10-15 million a year. But again, we've got to sit down with their leaders now and determine what is it they need. And it'll be - it'll comport with the same kinds of material they were getting before: armored personnel vehicles, MRAPs, Humvees, TOW missiles, arms and ammunition."

As for whether the release of prisoners was among the meaningful reforms, Kirby pointed out that Bahrain "has implemented some of the recommendations made by the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry which include establishing institutions to promote accountability, like an ombudsman's office, a special investigative unit for the ministry of interior, the National Institution on Human Rights and the Commission on the Rights of Prisoners and Detainees; rebuilding most of the mosques that were destroyed during the 2011 crackdown - construction is completed on 13 of them, significant progress on 14, and there's limited progress on 3 of them due to some zoning issues; training police and human rights standards both for all new cadets and continuous learning courses for existing personnel; and reinstating the vast majority of workers who were dismissed from their jobs in 2011."

"That's some actual meaningful reform and change. But again, we're under no illusions here that there's still work to be done. And as I said, it's all documented in our Human Rights Report We're taking a very clear-eyed approach to this," he further stated.

As for whether the US is satisfied with the Bahrainis' reaction to this decision, Kirby said: "I would refer you to the Bahrainis for their reaction. And again, we believe this is the right decision for our relationship with Bahrain and for their importance as a partner in the region."

The Arabic Issue

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