Total Pageviews

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bahrain Criticized for Use of Tear Gas Following Boy\'s Funeral

Video produced by activists said to show tear gas in the neighborhood of an 8-year-old boy who died from exposure to the gas this month.

The government of Bahrain has drawn renewed criticism for its use of tear gas after activists said an 8-year-old boy died this month when his village was exposed to tear gas. But Bahrain’s government contradicted that claim, saying the boy died after being admitted to the hospital with severe pneumonia.

The death of the boy, Qassim Habib, on Jan. 26 touched off further protests in the Persian Gulf island, which has been widely criticized in recent years for what human rights groups say is its excessive use of tear gas. This week the group Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain called for an investigation into the boy’s death based on a report from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, whose acting vice president, Said Yousif Al-Muhafdha, visited the family after his death and described the incident.

The family stated that their village, Karbabad, was attacked extensively with tear gas on the 17th of January 2013 and as Qassim suffers from asthma, it is believed by the family that this attack made him vulnerable to tear gas and lead to his death.

Qassim was suffering from a severe form of asthma. He was following up with doctors in Bahrain and the family was strongly advised to take extra care of him during changes in the weather or any other stimulant that may precipitate a lethal deterioration of his health.

He was admitted to ! the pediatric intensive care unit in Salmaniya Medical Complex in Bahrain where he died later due to respiratory failure from the severity of the asthma attack and worsening general condition.

The rights group said Qassim was one of two people who died this month after exposure to tear gas. The other was an 87-year-old man named Habeeb Ebrahim, who inhaled tear gas on Sept. 27 and Nov. 30 of last year and was hospitalized several times before he died on Jan. 12, his family told the rights group.

Bahrain’s public prosecutor said in a statement that the boy’s death was investigated.

A post-mortem was conducted on the child’s body and his medical record was reviewed which indicated that he was admitted to hospital on 19-1-2013 following breathing problems due to severe pneumonia. Meanwhile, the medical examiner confirmed in his report that there was no criminal cause of death and that doctors exerted all effrts to treatment the child but without any use.

A video produced by a local Karbabad resistance group shows tear gas inundating what it says is the boy’s house and neighborhood. The group has also posted video of protesters lobbing flaming petrol bombs at security forces who appeared to respond by firing tear gas.

The Feb. 14 Media Network said the death of the boy touched off more protests.

Bahrain’s interior ministry said on its Twitter feed that unrest erupted after his funeral.

Feb. 14 is a reference to the day in 2011 when the uprising began in the country. Police officers responded with force, and the government has since continued to silence its critics and jail dissidents, as my colleague Kareem Fahim wrote in a recent report.

Human Rights Watch has said that reports of deaths from beatings and excessive use of tear gas were among the reasons that human rights groups in Bahrain continued to be so critical. Physicians for Human Rights said in a report to Congress and in a statement last year that the government’s “indiscriminate” use of tear gas has resulted in the “maiming, blinding and even killing of civilian protesters.”

This month, the European Parliament called ! for sanctions against Bahrain for its violent handling of protesters.

The House expresses its “strong disapproval” of the EU’s lack of response to the ongoing crackdown in Bahrain and calls for sanctions against the individuals directly responsible for the human rights abuses and for restrictions on EU exports of surveillance technology, tear gas and crowd-control material.

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.