Conference in Ireland condemns use of tear gas in Bahrain as lethal

Dublin, Ireland – A conference today, hosted by the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organisation, has brought together academics, medics, activists and more to condemn the widespread use of tear gas against civilians in Bahrain.

The conference, held at the University College Dublin, featured speeches by Bahraini medic Dr. Nada Dhaif, Richard Sollom of Physicians for Human Rights, Professor Damian McCormack, who trained Bahraini medics in Ireland, Professor Tom Collins, who recently resigned from his post in Bahrain, a member of the European Parliament and others.

Dr. Nada Dhaif opened the conference by outlining her case. She was arrested in 2011 and tortured, for simply treating injured protesters. She described what had been said to her by a “high ranking officer” who said, “Why are you helping these animals? You should not save them, and now you will not see sunlight for another 25 years.”

She mentioned that the situation in Bahrain is currently getting worse, with tear gas being used in homes, schools and many other areas, causing danger to citizens. Dr. Nada Dhaif made clear that this was not simple pepper spray being used, but deadly CS gas that has caused many deaths, as well as miscarriages in women. The pictures below show some of the slides used by Dr. Nada Dhaif in highlighting the statistics of tear gas use in Bahrain.

The read areas of the map show where tear gas is used most extensively, which also happens to be the predominantly Shi’ite areas of Bahrains

Table showing number of tear gas shots fired per day in Bahrain

Dr. Nada Dhaif ended her speech by appealing to the international community for support for the people of Bahrain. She said that she was freed from prison because of international advocacy and support and the same is needed to stop the constant human rights violations in Bahrain.

Professor Damian McCormack followed on by discussing the historical context of chemical weapons. He reiterated his view that Bahrain’s use of tear gas is a form of chemical weapons and therefore must be treated as such. He mentioned that his team had carried out tests on tear gas canisters that had been smuggled out of Bahrain and found inconclusively that they were a CS gas, which he explained is a lethal weapon and can cause many health complexities, including death.

Helen Close, from the OMEGA Research Foundation, spoke about the work her organisation does in researching the misuse of police and security equipment around the world. She discussed the work they had done to identify and gather evidence about the weapons being used in Bahrain against protesters, both in the natrue of the weapons and where they are imported from.

Richard Sollom, from Physicians for Human Rights and long time supporter of human rights in Bahrain, outlined just how unique the use of tear gas is in Bahrain, saying that it was hard to research on the subject as no where else has ever seen such a sustained period of tear gas attacks. He referred to his organisations report “Weaponising Tear Gas” and explained the fron cover photograph of a small number of protesters being tear gassed at close range by a number of police officers. He said that this photo shows the way tear gas is used in Bahrain, as a weapon and not as a form of crowd control.

Richard Sollom outlined three ways in which Bahrain’s use of tear gas is a violation of UN principles. Tear gas is used preemptively, without warnings to disperse, it is used excessively and disproportionately and it is used in a way without regard for minimising damage, indeed it creates damage. Furthermore he said that Bahrain is violating international human rights law by carpeting whole areas in tear gas, and acting in a state policy of inhumane treatment of citizens.

Feargal Mawe, from Ceartas Irish Lawyers for Human Rights, spoke about their current attempt to stop the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland in Bahrain being accredited by the Irish Medical Council, for what he described would be a “breach of medical standards”.

Other speakers included Professor Eoin O’Brien and MEP Marian Harkin, who both visited Bahrain and expressed their support for human rights respect in Bahrain. Professor Tom Collins, former head of the RCSI in Bahrain, also spoke about his decision to resign from his post in Bahrain after the constant breaches of medical neutrality he saw during his time in Bahrain. Watch our exclusive interview with him below about why he resigned.

He argued there are 3 powers outside of Bahrain who are all complicit in the abuses taking place there, namely UK, USA and Saudi Arabia. He argued that without the support of these states, Bahrain would not be able to do what it is currently doing in cracking down on peaceful protesters.

Full report due to follow soon.

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