Leahy Cosponsors BICI Accountability Act; NDAA Features Bahrain Language

Photo Credit: J.Scott Applewhite/AP

It has been confirmed that Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is the newest cosponsor of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) Accountability Act of 2015.  Leahy joins Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) on the bill.  The legislation seeks to ban the sale of  arms to Bahrain until the country complies with the recommendations laid out  by the 2011 BICI report.  The bans would target small arms, tear gas, Humvees, and “other items that could reasonably be used for crowd control purposes.” A companion bill is currently being proposed in the House of Representatives and is cosponsored by Representatives James McGovern (D-MA), Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA).

Bahrain’s human rights situation has increasingly deteriorated since 2011 when popular, pro-democracy protests began in the country.  Since then, the government has often resorted to using tactics involving tear gas and light weapons to disperse protesters. In 2013, the Department of State evaluated  the country’s progress on the implementation of the 2011 Commission’s recommendations and it was found that progress had been made on only 5 of the 26 suggestions.

In  related news, the  House of Representatives released a draft version of the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) yesterday.  Per the conference report, the FY16 version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains language requiring “the Secretary of Defense to provide a report to the Armed Services Committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate, not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, on threats posed to Department of Defense personnel and operations associated with United States military installations in Bahrain.” It adds, “The report should, at a minimum, include an assessment of the current security situation in Bahrain, the safety and security of Department of Defense personnel and dependents, and appropriate measures to mitigate the threat to U.S. operations and personnel including potential alternative facilities should U.S. personnel require temporary relocation.”

The House of Representatives issued a draft NDAA bill earlier this year that required a similar report, though its version contained stronger language.