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Briefing note on Bahrain

20 March 2012

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Subject: Bahrain

We have been receiving worrying reports of the disproportionate use of force by Bahraini security forces, including the excessive use of teargas, the use of birdshot pellets and rubber bullets. The use of tear gas in particular has reportedly resulted in a number of deaths of protestors and bystanders - and that number has reportedly risen in recent months. Reliable sources indicate that the civilians who died from tear gas suffered complications from gas inhalation, and that security forces have been firing metal tear gas canisters from grenade launchers into crowds.

We call on the Government of Bahrain to investigate the alleged use of such excessive force. Bahrain has recently issued a new code of conduct requiring the police force to adhere fully to human rights principles. We welcome this new code and hope that its implementation will be carefully monitored.

We are also concerned about the health of human rights defenders who are on hunger strike in protest against their imprisonment for participating in last year’s mass demonstrations. In particular, human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has been on hunger strike for 40 days now in a Bahraini jail in protest over the life sentence he was handed last summer.

ENDS

For more information or media requests, please contact spokesperson Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or press officers Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) and Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org).

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