Footage taken after a home was tear-gassed
Tear gas is marketed and exported as "non-lethal", but in Bahrain --- as in many other countries --- it is proving quite deadly. In the past month alone Sajeda Faisal Jawad, a 5-day-old baby, Abdulali Ali Ahmed, a 73-year-old man, and Fakhriya Jassim AlSakran, a 55-year-old woman, all died from tear gas inhalation, whilst 16-year old Sayed Hashim died after he was struck by a gas canister fired by security forces at his neck and chest. Mourners attending the funerals of these victims have in turn been attacked with the toxic chemicals.
Bahrain, as a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, is prohibited from using tear gas against a foreign country. To do so would be to commit a war crime. Sadly --- indeed, bizarrely --- the Bahraini regime is not prohibited from doing this to its own citizens.
As analyst J P Perry Robinson explains:
The Chemical Weapons Convention expressly exempts from its prohibitions the use of toxic chemicals for “[l]aw enforcement including domestic riot control purposes”. The negotiators created this exemption in order to allow police use of tear gas to continue uninhibited by their treaty.
The Bahraini regime has used incredible amounts of tear gas across the past 12 months, with its use moving towards the indiscriminate. Whole villages are being blanketed, with canisters thrown into houses and onto roofs. Aside from the physical suffering of the chemical toxicity, the use of the gas raises the risk of fire.
Babies in Bahrain suffering from tear gas inhalation
Repeated exposure to tear gas brings the potential for serious long-term damage to health. Individuals wearing contact lenses may have their eyesight permanently damaged due to scratched corneas. There are also troubling reports emerging of a rise in miscarriages amongst pregnant women.
Some of the companies exporting tear gas to Bahrain have been identified. There may well be more. In the meantime, however, the corporations below should be shamed of the suffering their products have inflicted. They may want to consider making a public statement regretting their decision to export to a regime flagrantly abusing the human rights of its citizens. They may also want to consider compensating the families of those killed by their tear gas, or making a sizeable donation to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, to help stop the abusive use of their "non-lethal" products.
Defense Technology / Federal Laboratories
Josh Shahryar: Last Night It Rained Tear Gas
Marc Owen Jones: Lethal Non-Lethal Weapons: The Deadly Effects of Tear Gas in Bahrain
Marc Owen Jones: Civilians in the Mist: An Update on the Deadly Effects of Tear Gas
Women News Network: Excessive use of tear gas endangers women protesters Bahrain
Nicholas Kristof: Repressing Democracy, With American Arms
J P Perry Robinson: Non Lethal Warfare and the Chemical Weapons Convention