Tell Congress: Don’t let Rex Tillerson sell lethal weapons to human rights abusers
The United States is responsible for the production and sale of more deadly weapons and military tools than any other country in the world.1
During the Obama administration, there were limits to which countries the United States would arm. Now, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is taking those fragile buffers away. Last month he lifted all human rights preconditions on a major sale of fighter jets and other lethal weapons to Bahrain.2 By removing these preconditions, he is sending a clear message to Bahrain and every other country: As long as foreign governments give the United States money, the Trump administration will turn a blind eye to those governments’ acts of torture, genocide or oppression, or any blatant human rights abuses and supply them with weapons of war.
Congress has the power to stop this. Section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act says that Congress has the power and authority to pass legislation to block or modify an arms sale at any time up until the weapons are delivered into foreign hands.3 It can block the sale that Tillerson is trying to broker right now with Bahrain and pass laws that condition our future arms sales so that we never sell weapons to human rights abusers again. We have to put pressure on our legislature to make sure they take action.4
Tell Congress: Don’t let Tillerson sell weapons to human rights abusers. Block the arms sale to Bahrain and pass a law to make sure this never happens again.
Amnesty International has described the human rights situation in Bahrain as being “on the brink of crisis.”5 The government has not allowed representatives from human rights watchdog groups to access the country, but even without direct access groups like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have reported on the police and court investigators torturing detained people,6 Bahranians being stripped of their citizenship and nationality,7 and travel bans being placed on citizens who are critical of authorities human rights abuses.8
Human rights groups and activists have long criticized U.S. arms sales to other countries with known human rights abuses, including outcry that helped block a sale of precision missiles to Saudi Arabia last winter in an attempt to address the horrific Yemeni casualties coming out of the conflict between the two countries.9 Saudi Arabia remains one of the most frequent customers of American weaponry, and Tillerson has indicated that he will be moving ahead with selling them missiles.10
These decisions are a reflection of what we have known about Tillerson from the beginning. He is a billionaire who cares more about lining his pockets than about protecting people or the planet. Tillerson’s confirmation hearing was awash with red flags concerning his willingness to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses. He refused to call Vladimir Putin a war criminal for his involvement in Aleppo,11 denied that Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte is a human rights violator,12 and dismissed the unequal and oppressive treatment of many women in Saudi Arabia.13
It is up to Congress to rein him in and make sure that we stop giving human rights abusers the tools they need to kill.
Tell Congress: Don’t let Tillerson make arms sales to human rights abusers. Block this sale to Bahrain and pass a law to make sure this never happens again.
Thank you for standing up for peace.
1. Andrew Soergel, “America's Arms Exports Dominate Despite Global Competition,” U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 27, 2016.
2. Felicia Schwartz and Doug Cameron, “Tillerson Dropping Human Rights Conditions on Sale of F-16s to Bahrain,” The Wall Street Journal, March 30, 2017.
3. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, “Arms Sales: Congressional Review Process,” accessed April 27, 2017.
4. Human Rights First, “Congress Urged to Check Administration's Actions, Block Sale of F-16s to Bahrain,” March 30, 2017.
5. Amnesty International, “Bahrain: Human rights on the brink of crisis,” Jan. 18, 2017.
9. Helene Cooper, “U.S. Blocks Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia Amid Concerns Over Yemen War,” The New York Times, Dec. 13, 2016.
10. David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, “Rex Tillerson to Lift Human Rights Conditions on Arms Sale to Bahrain,” The New York Times, March 29, 2017.
11. David Bixenspan, “Rex Tillerson Refuses to Call Vladimir Putin a ‘War Criminal’ During Hearing,” Mediaite, Jan. 11, 2017.
12. Jessica Taylor, “5 Top Moments From Rex Tillerson's Hearing To Be Secretary Of State,” NPR, Jan. 11, 2017.