Bahrain slams tear gas death claims
Manama, August 9, 2012
Bahrain has strongly denied claims that anyone has died or suffered serious injuries as a result of tear gas, with the Information Affairs Authority (IAA) saying there was no evidence to prove the tear gas used by police was lethal.
"Any means that have been exercised by security forces adhere to international standards of riot control," said a spokesman.
A recent report by the US-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) organisation alleged it had resulted in the "maiming, blinding and even killing of protesters".
"It is increasingly evident that tear gas has effects far more severe than commonly understood," said its deputy director Richard Sollom.
"Suggestions that the use of tear gas in Bahrain is severely injurious or even lethal are simply not backed up by any research or proof,” the spokesman said.
"The government of Bahrain denies and condemns the use of lethal force or unlawful means in controlling demonstrations in the kingdom."
The IAA said it was also important to consider the situation faced by the security forces when they are forced to resort to using tear gas.
"Where there has been a response by the Interior Ministry, it is in response to illegal, violent or disruptive acts being committed and has no bearing on what the person committing the acts believes in or which community he or she belongs to," said the spokesman.
"The disruptions to others' lives and economic interests are not acceptable and it is the government's responsibility to create a safe environment for both of those to survive."
The spokesman said while the United Nation's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognised the right of people to protest in states they must conform with the law in the "interests of national security or public safety, public order/or the protection of the rights and freedom of others".
"It is imperative to establish that any allegations regarding the use of force are taken very seriously," he said.
"There are hundreds of cases of police being injured by petrol bombs, propelled metal rods and makeshift weapons."
The spokesman referred to the latest Interior Ministry statistics which showed more than 700 policemen had been injured by rioters in attacks since the start of the year, which have continued throughout Ramadan.
He referred to the discovery of bomb-making factories in Salmabad and Hamad Town, where police seized four ready-to-use bombs, five tonnes of explosive materials and 110 litres of potentially dangerous chemicals.
Sollom and co-author assistant professor of medicine at the New York-based Mount Sinai School of Medicine Dr Holly Atkinson reportedly interviewed more than 100 Bahrainis for the 60-page report.
But the IAA urged the PHR to find out the facts before publishing false claims.
"Bahrain has a duty to restore law and order to protect the right of life for all citizens," said the spokesman.
"The use of force by security personnel was acknowledged by the government in the BICI (Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry) report and measures have been enforced to ensure proportionality and accountability concerns are addressed."
Meanwhile a top United Nations official said tear gas is a "non-lethal incapacitating weapon" and could only lead to serious injury or death if it is grossly misused.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said its use was legitimate in certain circumstances, but the use of force should be exceptional.
"Tear gas is classified as a 'non-lethal incapacitating weapon' and should only be used in carefully circumscribed circumstances, for example, if a large group of protesters are resorting to violence and or damaging property," he said.
"If people are badly injured or killed by it or by tear gas canisters being deliberately aimed at someone at very close range, then it is clearly being misused and there should be an investigation and, if warranted, punitive action.”
"We are not aware of any such statistics, but obviously particular care should be taken with children, pregnant women, older persons and other especially vulnerable people," Colville added. – TradeArabia News Service