South Korea suspends tear gas exports to Bahrain

South Korea suspends tear gas exports to Bahrain

SEOUL - The Associated Press
South Korea suspends tear gas exports to Bahrain

A Bahraini anti-government female protestor runs for cover from tear gas fired by riot police (unseen) during clashes following an anti-government demonstration in the village of Daih, west of Manama, Dec. 17. AFP photo

South Korea has ordered companies to suspend tear gas exports to Bahrain amid pressure from human rights groups, officials said Jan. 8. Similar calls were made against Turkey during the Gezi protests.

The state-run Defense Acquisition Program Administration instructed two companies not to ship tear gas to the Gulf state after they inquired about possible exports, agency officials said.

The two companies exported tear gas to Bahrain in 2011 and 2012, the officials said. Exports of tear gas need government approval because a key ingredient is listed as a strategic material in South Korea, they said.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of department rules, said the decision was made in consideration of the overall situation in Bahrain, including media reports that misuse of tear gas had caused the deaths and injuries of protesters, and calls by rights groups for a ban on exports of the crowd control material to the country.

International rights group Amnesty International hailed the South Korean decision. "The South Korean authorities should be commended for this move to help prevent further human rights violations in Bahrain," Brian Wood, head of arms control and human rights at the group, said in a statement.

Bahrain, a Sunni-ruled nation, has faced continuing unrest since the country's Shiite majority began protests against the government in early 2011. Bahraini Shiites are demanding more rights from the Sunni rulers.

Similar calls against Turkey

Similar calls were made by human rights group against Turkey in the aftermath of the Gezi Park protests that shook the government last year.  

Amnesty International had urged on September countries exporting tear gas to Turkey to stop their shipments for "their nabusive use" against peaceful protests. Those countries included South Korea, as well as the United States, Israel, Britain, China, Brazil, India and Belgium.

Six protesters were killed in anti-government protests in Turkey in the 2013 summer. A 15-year-old teenager, Berkin Elvan, was also the victim of tear gas abuse after sustaining a head injury from a gas canister as he went to buy bread during a police crackdown in Istanbul’s Okmeydanı neighborhood last June.