Bahrain's Unprecedented Use of Toxic Chemical Agents Against Civilians

August 2012

Read the report (pdf)

The Bahrain government’s indiscriminate use of tear gas as a weapon has resulted in the maiming, blinding, and even killing of civilian protesters, and must stop at once while the government reassesses the use of such toxic chemical agents. PHR's new report details the findings of our investigation. This report is based on interviews with more than 100 Bahraini citizens, including victims of civil rights violations, corroborating witnesses, civil society leaders, and government officials. It documents the authors' findings, based on physical examinations and medical records. Among them:

* A teenage boy was struck in his left eye by a tear gas canister fired at close range, which fractured his eye socket and ruptured his eyeball, leaving him blind in that eye. * A 27-year-old bystander suffered a fractured skull and intracranial bleeding when struck in the head with a tear gas canister. * A physiotherapist started wheezing, felt short of breath, and had difficulty speaking for two weeks after exposure to tear gas. * Several women who had miscarried reported that their doctors said they had noticed a significant rise in miscarriages in neighborhoods where tear gas was used frequently. * An asthmatic man routinely exposed to tear gas died in the hospital of acute respiratory failure after exposure to yet another tear gas explosion.

PHR is calling on Bahrain’s government to immediately end all attacks on civilians and to suspend its use of tear gas while it conducts an impartial investigation of tear gas misuse and holds accountable those who have used the gas in excessive or improper ways. In addition, PHR is asking that Bahrain’s government disclose information about the toxic chemical agents used by its security forces, and that it permit scientists and health professionals to study the effects of tear gas use in that country.

PHR is also seeking the creation of an international group of health professionals, public health experts, lawyers, and law enforcement officials to draft guiding principles on the use of all toxic chemical agents, and to determine whether certain such agents (including tear gas) which are now considered nonlethal should be reclassified under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

>> Read the Executive Summary (pdf)

>> Read Richard Sollom's testimony to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (US Congress) on Bahrain's use of teargas against civilians.