South Korea today announced a halt to shipments of tear gas to Bahrain, following pressure from Amnesty International and other human rights groups which worked alongside Bahrain Watch’s ‘Stop the Shipment’ campaign.
“The South Korean authorities should be commended for this move to help prevent further human rights violations in Bahrain, which comes after sustained campaigning by activists from Amnesty International and other NGOs in Bahrain and around the world,” said Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International.
The announcement by South Korea’s defence agency cited pressure from human rights groups following the Bahraini authorities’ repeated – and sometimes fatal – misuse of the toxic chemical agents against peaceful protesters.
“South Korea is sending a clear message that the Bahraini authorities’ ongoing repression of peaceful protests is unacceptable and will not be rewarded with future weapons transfers. Other countries that continue to supply Bahrain with tear gas and related equipment should sit up and take notice,” said Wood.
According to a leaked document, published on 16 October 2013 by local NGO Bahrain Watch, the Bahraini Interior Ministry placed a tender for bids of up to 1.6 million tear gas canisters, 90,000 tear gas grenades and 145,000 stun grenades. The South Korean company DaekWang Chemical, which had also previously supplied tear gas items to Bahrain, was among the companies designated to fill the order. DaekWang’s chief executive today told the Financial Times newspaper his company was “unlikely” to provide future tear gas shipments to Bahrain.
Amnesty International has identified at least 10 countries whose governments have authorized supplying weaponry, munitions and related equipment to Bahrain. The arms export countries included Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the USA. US, French and Spanish officials have indicated in recent weeks to Amnesty International that they have suspended supplies of chemical irritants to Bahrain.
The organization calls on all countries to halt arms transfers to Bahrain while there is a substantial risk they will be used to commit further serious human rights violations.