South Korea Halts Export of Tear Gas to Bahrain
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today welcomes reports that South Korea has suspended shipment of tear gas to Bahrain on the grounds of political instability and human rights concerns.
“South Korea is making an important statement to the Bahraini government by preventing the regime from obtaining tear gas,” said Brian Dooley of Human rights First. “It continues to be used inappropriately, including against peaceful protestors and indiscriminately across entire neighborhoods. Bahrain needs to demonstrate to the international community that it can use such weapons responsibly before the government is allowed to acquire more.”
A spokesman for the South Korean defense agency stated that the decision was made because of “unstable politics in the country, people’s death due to tear gas and complaints from human rights groups.” The halted export was for 1.6 million tear gas projectiles to Bahrain, enough gas to target Bahrain’s entire population estimated at 1.3 million people.
“Bahrain’s police should make publicly available the protocol for police use of tear gas, including procedures for checking out and accounting for gas canisters by police officers. Far too often, neighborhoods in Bahrain are becoming free-fire zones for the indiscriminate use of tear gas against citizens,” said Dooley.
Tear gas has been used by the Bahraini security forces as a method of collective punishment against neighborhoods, and has been fired directly into cars and homes. Since widespread protests began in Bahrain in early 2011, an unknown number people have died as a result of tear gas inhalation, while others have been killed by direct hits from canisters being fired at close range. Protests have also become more violent over the last year, with the Bahrain authorities stating that at least nine police officers have been killed. The U.S. government reportedly ceased export licensing for tear gas to Bahrain in July 2011.
Human Rights First continues to urge the United States to overhaul its strategy in Bahrain in order to support a stable transition to democracy and the rule of law. Human Rights First issued a new report, “Plan B for Bahrain, What the United States Government Should Do Next,” detailing steps the United States should in Bahrain.