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Wed 13 Feb 2008 12:40 PM

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Bahraini MPs debate use of chemicals against citizens

Potentially lethal crowd control methods used if chemicals banned, official warns.

Riot police in Bahrain will be forced to use potentially lethal methods to control violent protesters if a new law to ban the use of chemical deterrents is passed, the Interior Ministry warned on Tuesday.

Major Humood Saad, Bahrain’s military courts director, said outlawing the use of chemical substances, such as tear gas, for crowd control would force the ministry to resort to harsher alternatives, Bahrain’s Gulf News Daily reported.

“We don't want to use anything more lethal or stronger than what we use at the moment, but if the law bans us from using chemical substances, then we will have to use something else,” Saad told parliament, according to the newspaper.

Saad’s comments were made during parliamentary discussions on a law to control the use, storage and production of chemical substances and the methods of destroying them.

He requested an article be added to the law allowing police to use chemical substances to disperse rioters.

The Sunni-ruled Gulf state was hit by a wave of violent protests by Shi'ites in December, with authorities using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators.

Police have since been accused of using excessive force in quelling the protests, in which one man was killed after reportedly inhaled tear gas.

MP Aziz Abul said the use of “chemical warfare” against citizens of Bahrain was far too extreme for the country to allow.

“It is inhumane to do it to our enemies, yet we want to do it to our own people, what kind of government is this?” Abul said during the parliamentary session.

According to Saad, all methods currently used by authorities to pacify protestors were legal and acceptable by international standards.

But MPs lashed out at Saad’s request for an article allowing police to use chemicals.

MP Sheikh Hassan Sultan highlighted potential health complications that could arise from the use of chemical crowd control.

“I don't have a scientific study or proper figures, but many have suffered from the complications associated with their use and were admitted to hospital, and what if those complications resurface again?” he asked.

After intense debate, MPs decided to withdraw the law for further discussion by the foreign affairs, defense and national security committee.

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