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Tear gas suppliers at London’s arms fair

British made tear gas used in Egypt- photo by Omar Robert Hamilton

British made tear gas used in Egypt- photo by Omar Robert Hamilton

This September’s DSEI arms fair will once again give authoritarian governments and dictatorships the opportunity to stock up on what is fast becoming the weapon of choice for repressive regimes- tear gas.

Some of the world’s leading suppliers of tear gas will be exhibiting, including British arms company Chemring, Brazil’s Condor, the US firm Non-Lethal Technologies and the joint German and South African-owned company Rheinmetall.

Tear gas made by these companies has recently been used to help crush protests in Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey and Brazil.

Not So Non-Lethal Technology

Exposure to tear gas can kill. It can cause suffocation, serious respiratory problems and even miscarriage. Tear gas canisters themselves can be deadly when fired at protesters, as we have seen in Bahrain and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Several Palestinian protesters have been killed, and in 2009, American activist Tristan Anderson was put in a coma and suffered serious brain damage after he was struck with a tear gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier.

34 Tear Gas-Related Deaths in Bahrain

Tear gas in Bahrain- photo by Ammar Abdulrasool (Freedom House)

Tear gas in Bahrain- photo by Ammar Abdulrasool (Freedom House)

According to Physicians for Human Rights, there were 34 tear gas-related deaths in Bahrain between March 2011 and March 2012, including 8 children and 6 people over the age of 70. One particularly shocking case, documented by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was the death of Sajida Faisal, who was five days old when she reportedly died from suffocation after riot police fired tear gas into her home. The Bahraini authorities often fire tear gas into confined spaces such as houses and cars, a tactic which has killed a number of people and been strongly criticised by Amnesty International.

Tear gas canisters made by Rheinmetall, Condor and Non-Lethal Technologies have all been found used in the country, some as recently as April this year. All three companies will be exhibiting at the fair, which is regularly attended by buyers from the Bahraini government.

British-Made Tear Gas Used in Egypt

In 2011, tear gas made by British arms company Chemring was used against protesters in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, aiding a bloody crackdown by the Mubarak regime which killed over 800 people. At least three of the deaths were attributed to tear gas exposure.

In June this year, tear gas made by Condor was used against protesters in Turkey and Brazil. This has been particularly harmful in Turkey, where the use of tear gas has caused thousands of injuries and possibly killed one protester. It is also believed that eleven people have lost their eyes after being struck by tear gas canisters during the demonstrations.

But despite ongoing repression, Bahrain, Egypt, Brazil and Turkey are all likely to attend the DSEI fair this September, along with some of their main tear gas suppliers. Many other countries who are regularly invited to the fair have a similar record of using tear gas against civilians, even as recently as this year, including Jordan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Indonesia and Iraq. A google map created by Dr. Anna Feigenbaum shows that “mass tear gassing” has occurred in nearly 50 different countries since December 2012, many of which will also be attending DSEI.

Take Action Now!

There are plenty of things you can do to take action against the fair and challenge the supply of tear gas and other weapons to repressive regimes. For example, you can

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