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Bahrain: UK tear gas exports must be more closely scrutinised

Amnesty International has today criticised the UK’s decision to export tear gas to Bahrain – where multiple deaths have been caused as a result of the use of this weapon by the country’s security forces.

An Amnesty International report published in October 2011, ‘Arms transfers to the Middle East and North Africa: lessons for an effective Arms treaty’, revealed that in 2010 UK authorised the sale of a variety of weapons, including grenade launchers, riot guns and tear gas to the Middle East state, despite having knowledge of the risk that these weapons could be used to carry out serious human rights violations within the country.

Following the recent discovery that more than a dozen deaths followed the misuse of tear gas by security forces, Amnesty International has reiterated its call to the UK Government to stringently review its exports of tear gas and other weaponry to regions where there is a likelihood that these weapons would be used to commit violations.

Amnesty International’s UK Arms Programme Director Oliver Sprague said:

“The UK Government must not shirk its commitment to human rights for the sake of making a quick buck.  It mustn’t permit transfers of any weapons which are likely to be used to kill, or seriously maim civilians. They were aware of Bahrain’s questionable track record on human rights before they agreed this export. Yet they allowed it to go ahead anyway.

“Having an effective global Arms Treaty would mean that the UK – and other governments – does not get away with transferring weapons to security forces in countries like Bahrain where there is a substantial risk they would be used to commit serious human rights abuses. 

“It’s time for the UK to show a clear and real commitment to this Treaty by firstly having closer scrutiny on where its weapons are exported to, and also by championing a robust, human-rights-centred Arms Treaty.”

Notes to editors
1.    ‘Arms transfers to the Middle East and North Africa: lessons for an effective Arms treaty was published in October 2011. 
2.    In 2010, the UK licensed £1,458,000 under the category of smooth-bore weapons over 20mm. Among the items included was tear gas/irritant ammunition.
3.    To arrange an interview please contact the Amnesty UK press office

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