Rights Group: Bahrain Regime ‘Weaponizing Tear Gas’

The Bahraini regime continues to receive US support, despite widespread human rights abuses

by John Glaser, August 01, 2012

A US-based human rights group has accused the regime in Bahrain of indiscriminately using tear gas as a weapon against protesters, resulting in severe injuries and even killing of civilians.

Physicians for Human Rights published a report on Wednesday entitled Weaponizing Tear Gas, and it was based on interviews with more than 100 Bahrainis as well as evidence gathered by the groups’s investigators on the ground. The report said the Bahraini regime’s use of tear gas has been unprecedented in the 100-year history of its use.

“Law enforcement officials have deployed this toxic agent to punish protesters, inflict suffering, and suppress dissent. Usually perceived by the public and security forces as a benign tool for crowd control, tear gas, especially when used in large quantities and in enclosed spaces, poses serious health risks and even causes death,” they wrote.

“Since February 2011, the Bahraini government has unleashed a torrent of these toxic chemical agents against men, women, and children, including the elderly and infirm.”

“Tear gas is a generic term for a group of at least 15 toxic chemical agents that disable people by exposing their lungs, skin and eyes to irritants,” reports the BBC. In Bahrain, it has been resulting in maiming, blinding, and even death.

Through it all, the Bahraini government has continued to receive Washington’s support, with the flow of money and arms, and riot gear ongoing. The regime has rejected criticism, claiming its security forces are in line with international standards.

Despite the regime’s claims of reform following international condemnation of their brutality, Amnesty International has warned “no one should be under any illusions that the country’s human rights crisis is over.”

“The authorities are trying to portray the country as being on the road to reform but we continue to receive reports of torture and use of unnecessary and excessive force against protests,” said Amnesty’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Three months ago, Bahraini authorities vowed an even harsher crackdown, which has been done mostly in private and in the prisons and including beatings and torture. “If applying the law means tougher action, then so be it,” Bahraini government spokesman Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Mubarak Al Khalifa said.

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