International, domestic law requires the U.S. to cut aid to Bahrain

Following Bahrain’s declaration of martial law and Saudi forces entering the country to help quell a rebellion by the island’s Shia Muslim majority, White House spokesman Jay Carney said today that “There is no military solution to the unrest in Bahrain or in other countries in the region.”

“We continue to urge all sides to refrain from violence and the use of force in any way, to respect the universal rights of the people in that country — the right to free speech, the right to freedom of assembly, access to information; and to address the grievance that they have, their demands for greater participation,” he said.

Yet, international and domestic law requires that the U.S. not just call for a peaceful solution or express support for the rights of free speech speech and assembly, but actually cut all military aid to states that commit violations of human rights.

According to the International Law Commission (ILC), the official UN body that codifies customary international law,

A State which aids or assists another State in the commission of an internationally wrongful act by the latter is internationally responsible for doing so if: (a) that State does so with knowledge of the circumstances of the internationally wrongful act; and (b) the act would be internationally wrongful if committed by that State” (Article 16 of the International Law Commission, “Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts,” (2001) which were commended by the General Assembly, A/RES/56/83).

The U.S. provided Bahrain $19 million for the fiscal year 2010, which ended on September 30, 2010. This fiscal year, the island monarchy is on track to receive $19.5 million in military aid.

In response to Bahrain’s brutal crackdown on protesters, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) stated on Feb. 18,

U.S. law prohibits aid to foreign security forces that violate human rights, and there is evidence to apply the law today inBahrain. I have asked the State Department to consider the application of our law and I urge a prompt decision. Attacks on civilians calling for political reform and on the press are assaults on the human rights and dignity of all people.

He was referring to Section 502B of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act, which stipulates that “no security assistance may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” and section 4 of the Arms Export Control Act which authorizes the supply of U.S. military equipment and training only for lawful purposes of internal security, “legitimate self-defense,” or participation in UN peacekeeping operations or other operations consistent with the UN Charter.

In response to Leahy’s protest, the State Department wrote in a March 10 letter that it was “investigating the actions of the Bahraini police and Ministry of Interior forces and assessing their conduct in connection with the protests” last month.

The State Department said “the administration is reevaluating its procedures for reviewing U.S. security assistance and defense sales during periods of domestic unrest and violence and has specifically included Bahrain in this reassessment.”

As the Wall Street Journal reports, “The investigation could force the U.S. to cut off aid to specific military units found to be involved in crackdowns on civilian protesters. It could also delay multibillion-dollar arms deals to Gulf states, one of the fastest-growing markets for U.S. defense contractors.”

Whether the rule of law or the almighty dollar prevails, only time will tell.


About The Compliance Campaign

Campaigning for a United States in compliance with its international obligations. Follow on Twitter here: Facebook: Comments, article submissions or news leads are welcome at compliancecampaign [at]

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