Tear gas grenades used by Iraqi security forces causing 'horrific injuries': Amnesty report

Shot directly to kill, not disperse
A screenshot of an NRT broadcast from Tharir Square on October 25, 2019 showing tear gas being deployed against demonstrators (Photo Credit: Screenshot/NRT Digital Media)

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SULAIMANI — Amnesty International has alleged that the Iraqi security forces are firing military-grade tear gas grenades directly at protesters in Baghdad, causing at least five deaths and a number of other “horrific” injuries since October 25.

In a report released on Thursday (October 31), the watchdog group said that the projectiles, which are ten-times as heavy as the tear gas grenades typically used by police, are being deliberately aimed at the heads and bodies of demonstrators, in some cases piercing their skulls.

Amnesty called on the security forces to “immediately stop” using the projectiles.

It identified the grenades as “Serbian 40mm M99s, manufactured by Balkan Novotech, and 40mm LV CS grenades, likely manufactured by Bulgarian company Arsenal.”

“All the evidence points to Iraqi security forces deploying these military-grade grenades against protesters in Baghdad, apparently aiming for their heads or bodies at point-blank range,” said Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International Lynn Maalouf in a press release.

“This has had devastating results, in multiple cases piercing the victims’ skulls, resulting in gruesome wounds and death after the grenades embed inside their heads,” she added.

Amnesty said that it spoke to nine eyewitnesses and reviewed medical records, as well as photos and videos from Tharir Square. It also consulted medical professionals in Baghdad and an independent forensic pathologist during its investigation.

“They are not using [the projectiles] to disperse, they are using them to kill. All the deaths in Baghdad have been from these canisters going inside the protesters’ bodies,” one protester told Amnesty.

Another said that a friend had been killed by one of the projectiles on October 28 and had “personally witnessed another death and an injury caused by security forces using them” on October 26.

Amnesty said that it appeared that the grenades were first used on October 25 and not during the earlier week of protests that began on October 1.

The report included an image of a CAT-scan provided by a medical professional that appeared to show one of the canisters lodged fully within the skull cavity of a patient.

“The grenades that weigh 10 times as much [as typically-used canisters] deliver 10 times the force when they strike a protester. This is why they have caused such horrific injuries,” said Brian Castner, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Adviser on Arms and Military Operations.

Based on eyewitness accounts and analysis by medical professionals, the projectiles hit the protesters directly, rather than bouncing off the ground or taking some other indirect flight path.

“Any less-lethal weapon designed for crowd control can be deadly if deployed incorrectly. But what we’ve documented with these grenades in Baghdad goes far beyond misuse of a ‘safer’ weapon – the very design of the grenades being used is maximizing the horrific injuries and death,” Maalouf said.

“Iraq’s police force must recall them from use immediately. There must be an independent and impartial investigation into their use and into other cases of unlawful killings and injuries during the protests,” she added.

(NRT Digital Media)