@Amnesty: UK should immediately suspend arms transfers to Bahrain

February 18 2011, 9:18 AM  by Øistein Thorsen

By Amnesty International

Following numerous reports that the Bahraini security forces have this week used excessive force in responding to peaceful anti-government protests, Amnesty International UK Arms Programme Director Oliver Sprague said:

“We need to see an immediate suspension of any further shipments of equipment that could end up being used to violently suppress peaceful protests in Bahrain, or for that matter in countries like Libya, Yemen or Jordan.

“The Government’s own figures clearly show that the UK has recently licensed crowd control equipment to Bahrain including tear gas, assault rifles and machine guns.

“After what we’ve seen in Bahrain’s Pearl roundabout, it looks as if the government’s risk-assessment system has been found wanting. There have got be much tighter checks when arms and security equipment is being dispatched in cases like this.

“Next month governments are set to meet in New York to continue thrashing out the detail of a new global arms trade treaty which must, we’re insisting, include strong controls on things like crowd control equipment, guns and ammunition. Delegates will definitely be looking closely at Bahrain, Libya and other countries in the region to ensure that much-needed lessons are learnt.”

Amnesty has called for an investigation into the killing by Bahraini security forces of anti-government protestors at the city’s Pearl roundabout. The organisation has also called on the Libyan government to end its clampdown on peaceful political activists after violence erupted at demonstrations in the city of Benghazi and elsewhere.

Yesterday Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt announced that the UK was now “formally reviewing” recent licensing of exports to Bahrain.

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