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Bahrain: Canada complicit in Saudi crackdown

By: 
James Clark

February 27, 2012

Canadian arms companies exported $4 billion worth of weaponry and ammunition to Saudi Arabia in the last year, including light armoured vehicles (LAVs) that human rights activists believe were used in the Saudi crackdown on Bahrain’s democracy movement.
 
Despite Saudi Arabia’s well-documented history of human rights abuses, the Canadian government licensed the sale of billions of dollars of weaponry to the Saudi government, over 100 times the amount that had been approved for sale in 2010. Saudi Arabia was the single largest purchaser of merchandise from Canadian arms exporters, including over 700 LAV-3s from General Dynamics Land Systems based in London, Ontario.
 
Since the start of the Arab Spring at the end of 2010, Saudi Arabia has played an aggressive role in undermining the democracy movements that have spread across the region, including burgeoning protests within its own borders. It also sent tanks and troops to occupy the tiny island state of Bahrain, backing its government’s attack of peaceful protesters. Bahrain continues to repress all signs of dissent in the country, abducting and torturing protesters, some of whom have disappeared completely. Its actions have been condemned by human rights organizations around the world.
 
Fifth Fleet
Meanwhile, the US has ignored Bahrain’s repression of its own people, all the while claiming to support freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet, which patrols the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf—all key shipping lanes through which oil flows to the US and its allies.
 
Saudi Arabia is a key ally of the US and Canada in the region. The Canadian government joined only the Saudis and Israel in backing former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak before his overthrow on February 11, 2011, echoing their claim that “stability” is more important than democracy. Since Mubarak’s demise, Saudi Arabia has funneled money and arms to extremist groups across the region, including Salafists in Egypt who are hostile to the aims of the Egyptian Revolution. The Saudis are also attempting to hijack the revolution in Syria, fearful of a movement that threatens to inspire revolts throughout the Arab world.
 
Bahrain’s government recently escalated its attacks as activists gathered to mark the anniversary of the uprising on February 14. Opposition groups say over 60 people were arrested after trying to gather at the site of last year’s protests. Over 100 were injured after riot police fired birdshot and teargas at protesters. In addition, injured protestors who seek medical treatment face the risk of being detained and tortured. Dozens still face trial by military tribunal, despite claims by the government that their cases have been transferred to civilian courts.

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