Use of tear gas blamed for deaths of protesters
An INTERNATIONAL human rights group has accused the Bahraini government of indiscriminate use of tear gas against protesters resulting in the maiming, blinding and killing of civilians – charges the government has dismissed.
Bahrain crushed an uprising led by majority Shiites last year after successful revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, but unrest has continued with marches and rallies that sometimes result in clashes between police using tear gas and Shiite youths.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said in a report issued yesterday that Bahraini security forces often fire tear gas canisters directly at civilians or into their cars, houses or other closed spaces where toxic effects are worse.
“So-called tear gas, often considered a crowd-control method with no lasting harmful effects, can cause permanent injuries, miscarriages, birth defects and even fatalities as used by Bahrain’s security forces,” said PHR deputy director Richard Sollom, the report’s main author.
However, a government official rejected the criticism, saying that Bahrain conformed with international standards when using tear gas.
“It’s very one-sided,” said Sheikh Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak al-Khalifa, a senior adviser at the Information Affairs Authority.
“There is no proof or scientific backing for the absurd claims they make,” he said, referring to claims the gas is toxic.
But he added: “There may have been times where restraint was not shown.”
The report documented several cases, including a teenage boy who it said was blinded in his right eye by a tear gas canister fired at close range, and a 27-year-old bystander who suffered a fractured skull and intracranial bleeding from a canister.
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