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December 10, 2013



#StopTheShipment Actions Continue as Korean Gov’t Weighs Issuing Export License

Advocacy group Bahrain Watch today lodged complaints with several United Nations Special Rapporteurs, as part of the on-going #StopTheShipment campaign to stop a shipment of South Korean tear gas to Bahrain.

Meanwhile, Korean activists held a protest outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul last Wednesday, and a member of Bahrain Watch met with a senior Obama advisor to urge pressure on South Korea.

Bahrain Watch launched the #StopTheShipment campaign on 16 October 2013 after leaking a tender document showing that Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior intends to purchase more than 1.6 million rounds of tear gas.  As the #StopTheShipment campaign continues, Bahrain Watch understands that the Korean government is still considering issuing an export license for tear gas to Bahrain, but no license had yet been issued as of last week.

Complaints lodged with UN

The Bahrain Watch legal team taking action against the shipment, headed by Michael Mansfield QC, today lodged complaints with several UN Special Rapporteurs.  The complaints request that the Special Rapporteurs take urgent action to halt further shipments of tear gas to Bahrain, and investigate the legality of previous shipments of South Korean tear gas.  The complaints argue that Bahrain’s government has used previous shipments of tear gas to violate the freedoms of association, expression and movement, and for systematic repression that amounts to degrading and inhuman treatment and collective punishment.  A separate complaint was sent to each of the following offices:

  • Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
  • Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
  • Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killing
  • Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Daniel Carey of Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors, part of the Bahrain Watch legal team that filed the complaints, said, “the UN Special Rapporteurs are able to put substantial pressure on governments to comply with their international human rights obligations, which prevent states from exporting tear gas to governments that use it to cause significant loss of life and mistreatment.  The Bahrain Government’s use of tear gas is globally unprecedented.  We hope they will act quickly to require Korea and other states to refrain from exporting to it.”

Protest in Seoul and international pressure

Korean Activists protested outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last Wednesday [Photos].  The protest demanded that the Korean government stop shipping tear gas to Bahrain, and raised concerns that tear gas ultimately destined for Bahrain might be shipped through a sympathetic third country, like Saudi Arabia or Turkey, in order to avoid international scrutiny.  Protesters called on the government to not authorize any such third country shipment.  Protesters also expressed support for an OECDcomplaint filed two weeks ago by the Bahrain Watch legal team, against the presumed originator of the shipment, Dae Kwang Chemical Corporation.

The protest was covered in Korean media, including by Yonhap News Agency and Seoul Shinmun Newspaper. Korean activists also launched their own online action against the shipment.

Meanwhile, Bahrain Watch member Reda al-Fardan met with top Obama aide Susan Rice in Washington DC last week, and urged her to press US allies, including South Korea, “not to cooperate with the Bahraini government.”  Rice noted in a speech that the US had “with[held] portions of our military assistance” to Bahrain.

Korean government still considering issuing export license for Bahrain

The Bahrain Minister for Human Rights Affairs, Dr. Salah Ali, led a high-level governmental delegation to South Korea two weeks ago, along with members of the Ministry of Interior.  The delegation met with senior South Korean officials, including the Deputy Foreign Minister.  Bahrain Watch was previously informed that the Foreign Ministry was consulting with DAPA, Korea’s tear gas export licensing authority, on the matter of issuing an export license for tear gas to Bahrain. An individual who contacted the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week was told that no tear gas export license for Bahrain had yet been authorized, but that the Korean Government was still considering issuing such a license.

Statistics obtained from DAPA show that Korea has exported 773,975 units of tear gas so far in 2013, worth about US$ 11,345,584.  This includes 435,030 units to Turkey, and 130,000 units to Bangladesh, both the site of large-scale protests this year.  Other top recipients of Korean tear gas were Indonesia, with 131,050 units, and Saudi Arabia with 67,350 units.  Bahrain had received no Korean tear gas so far in 2013, according to the statistics.

Also, it was revealed that Korean tear gas before 2013 to Bahrain and Turkey were technically illegal, as companies failed to obtain the proper export licenses from DAPA prior to shipping the tear gas.  An executive at Korean company Dae Kwang Chemical Corporation admitted that his company shipped roughly 1 million units of tear gas to Bahrain between 2011 and 2012.

In the media

The Sunday Times, covered increasing use of tear gas in Bahrain in an article entitled “Tear gas replaces talk in Bahrain’s ‘liberal oasis.’”  Additional coverage included an editorial in Bahraini newspaper Al-Wasat, and discussions on BBC HardTalk and Russia Today.

An article for focused on Bahrain’s other apparent major tear gas supplier, a South African/German company known as Rheinmetall Denel Munition Pty Ltd, and emphasized the irony that South Africa appears to be supplying arms to Bahrain as it commemorates the struggle of Nelson Mandela.
Since #StopTheShipment was launched on 16 October 2013, participants have sent over 250,000 e-mails to Dae Kwang and the Korean government, urging them to stop shipments of tear gas to Bahrain. Lord Avebury, Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, also wrote to the South Korean President during her visit to London on Wednesday 30th October where she was met by Bahraini activists protesting outside 10 Downing Street.

You can campaign with us by following @StopTheShipment, or you can receive updates by following @BHWatch or our Facebook or Google+ pages.

Bahrain Watch is a monitoring and advocacy group that seeks to promote effective, accountable, and transparent governance in Bahrain through research and evidence-based advocacy. About Bahrain Watch: Bahrain Watch and campaign partners Americans for Democracy and Human Rights (ADHRB) have received support from REDRESSOmega Research Foundation, and Ceartas (Irish Lawyers for Human Rights).


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