Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bahrain: Bahrain Responds to Congressional Joint Resolution on Arms Sales, Outlines Need for Military Readiness in the Gulf

SOURCE Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain

The Kingdom of Bahrain responded to a proposed resolution that attaches conditions to future arms sales between the United States and Bahrain. In a letter to Congressional leadership on the Foreign Affairs, Appropriations committees, and the bill's sponsors, Houda Nonoo, Bahrain's Ambassador to the United States, outlined the need for military readiness in the Gulf against external threats for both Bahrain and the United States. The full text of the letter reads:

"I would like to address the concerns raised by members of Congress in the joint resolution that recommended attaching conditions to a proposed sale of critical military hardware to the Kingdom of Bahrain. The arms and technology in question would be dedicated to safeguarding Bahrain from external threats. This arms sale, like others before, will go to maintain security in the Arabian Gulf for the U.S. and its regional allies.

"While we recognize the concerns of our friends in Congress, this resolution is based on fundamental misconceptions about the unrest in Bahrain. Earlier this year, the Kingdom of Bahrain faced unrest unprecedented in our history. While many Bahrainis took to the streets to express legitimate demands, radical factions hijacked these protests and resorted to violence. These stories are well documented: the houses of government officials were marked for attack by armed mobs; hundreds of expatriate workers were attacked and several were killed; and, of course, several unarmed police officers were attacked and killed. Evidence suggests that these radical elements were inflamed by foreign actors seeking to undermine Bahrain's sovereignty. As evidenced by the recent plot against the Saudi Ambassador to Washington, this foreign threat is very credible for the United States and its regional allies.

"Following actions to restore basic law and order, my government undertook meaningful steps to address the legitimate aspirations of the Bahraini people. From the start of the unrest until now our government has repeatedly offered to engage with the opposition to start a dialogue that would bring about the very reforms that have been pressed in the protests, including reforming voting districts and giving more power to Parliament. Each time, my government has been rebuffed, most recently during the National Dialogue. It is telling that members of the opposition are currently calling for dialogue based on the conditions it rejected in previous negotiations.

"Bahrain is a young democracy and is committed to continuing our legacy of reform. Like all young democracies, we have made mistakes and we are committed to learning from them. To do so, His Majesty the King called for the creation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to determine the truth about the events that occurred in Bahrain since February 2011. The Commission is comprised of five eminent international lawyers including the world's foremost authorities in human rights and international criminal law. This is an unprecedented step; no other country has ever invited foreign experts to its shores to assess its actions in accordance with international law.

"We are committed to living with and learning from the report's findings. My government is prepared to accept the report's conclusions and we will redress grievances. The Commission's report will be released on November 23 and my government will establish a committee to ensure the report's recommendations are implemented promptly.

"It is important to stress that, alongside the BICI report, my government has not stopped reflecting on what happened during the unrest and has endeavored to begin the healing process through a series of initiatives that directly address many popular concerns. Our attorney general ordered a new civilian trial for medical professionals accused of significant wrongdoing during the unrest. Despite a deliberate campaign of misinformation alleging the contrary, these individuals are not being prosecuted for treating protestors; the charges against them make that clear.

"Additionally, we have established a compensation fund for victims and their dependents. We have instituted a comprehensive review of all job dismissals that has already resulted in the reinstatement of over 800 workers. We have recently proposed amendments to our freedom of expression laws (currently awaiting approval from Parliament) that would modify and delete provisions of criminal law that were the foundation of many of the arrests during the unrest. These actions are representative of our commitment to address popular concerns and unify our people.

"Bahrain is sincere in its desire to heal its divisions, but this Joint Resolution strikes at the very foundation of the partnership between our two countries. The strength of this bond, which is evidenced by our historic strategic relationship, has developed over the decades into one which has a deep rooted intrinsic value of friendship, shared moral conviction and mutual concern. The Arabian Gulf needs a credible defense against clear and ongoing external threats and Bahrain is proud to partner with the United States in safeguarding regional security. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you would like any further information about developments in my country."