On 17 January 2015, Abdulaziz Al-Saeed died at his home in Bilad Al-Qadeem due to tear gas inhalation, according to a statement by his family. His death followed a police crackdown on protesters in the area calling for the release of Al-Wefaq’s Secretary General Shaikh Ali Salman. Activists posted videos showing the police firing large amounts of tear gas in response to the protesters.
Prominent Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab posted a picture of a tear gas projectile he found on the doorstep of Al-Saeed’s house along with empty tear gas shell casings close by in the same area. The shell casings are consistent with Rheinmetall Denel Munition (Germany/South Africa) and Condor Non-Lethal Technologies (Brazil) tear gas. However, only the Condor tear gas has inner projectiles matching that in the picture posted by Rajab.
Condor’s tear gas canisters that have been used by police in Bahrain clearly show the labels GL 203/L Multiple Tear Gas Charge, which contains 5 projectiles per canister, and 203 GL/T Triple Tear Gas Charge, which contains 3 projectiles per canister. Both are listed on Condor’s CS gas munitions list.
Brazilian made tear gas was first sighted in Bahrain back in 2011. At the time both Condor and the Brazilian Foreign Ministry denied exporting tear gas to Bahrain, suggesting that the tear gas might have been re-exported to Bahrain by a neighboring GCC country. While the Brazilian Foreign Ministry claimed it was investigating such an illegal re-export, no results were made available from that investigation.
In 2012 and 2013, the most common types of tear gas seen by Bahrain Watch were manufactured by Korea’s Dae Kwang Chemical Corporation, and the South African/German company Rheinmetall Denel Munition. In January 2014, Bahrain Watch’s #StopTheShipment campaign succeeded in blocking South Korea’s Dae Kwang Chemical Corporation from exporting an unprecedented 3 million tear gas canisters to Bahrain. Towards the end of 2014, Bahrain Watch and others have noted an increase in the number of Brazilian canisters.
Protesters have photographed the lot numbers and canister serial numbers on several of these canisters. The most common lot number we have seen recently is CSL-N. The serial numbers on the canisters above are AEYR14 and AFQY14.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the Bahraini government’s use of tear gas as “disproportionate” and “excessive”, while NGOs such as Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) describe it as “unprecedented” and “lethal”. Even the King’s appointed BICI commission wrote in its report that Bahrain’s police use tear gas in an “unnecessary” and “indiscriminate” manner. The use of tear gas by Bahrain’s police is linked to at least 39 deaths, according to PHR.
Arms companies have been profiting from the government’s ongoing human rights violations against Bahrain’s population for the past four years. Bahrain Watch calls on Brazil and Condor to clarify whether they have authorized tear gas exports to Bahrain’s police, or whether the tear gas constitutes an illegal re-export by another country. In the latter case, the Brazilian government and Condor should to take action against the offending client country. The Brazilian government and Condor bear a moral and legal responsibility to investigate the current use of Brazilian made tear gas in Bahrain. Abdulaziz Al-Saeed is yet another tear gas victim that should prompt the Brazilian government to take immediate action and join other countries, like South Korea, in halting all tear gas exports to the Bahraini government in order to prevent further loss of innocent lives.