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RSF – French police asked to respect press freedom during Yellow Vest protests

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ORGANISATIONRSF_enReporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the French police to respect the basic press freedom rules during the next “Gilets Jaunes” (Yellow Vest) protests tomorrow and again on May Day (1 May). More than 80 journalists have been the victims of police violence since the weekly anti-government Yellow Vest protests began last November.

The level of violence to which journalists have been exposed at these protests has been unprecedented. When RSF unveiled its 2019 World Press Freedom Index a week ago, the number cases of police violence against journalists since the start of the protests stood at 62, according to David Dufresne, a journalist who monitors and reports these incidents on Twitter. But during the latest day of protests on 20 April – the 23rd weekly Yellow Vest protests – no fewer than 17 new cases of police violence were registered, according to the tally posted on the Allô Place Beauvau website.

Whether or not they are professional journalists and whether or not they have press cards, reporters – mainly photographers and video reporters – have repeatedly had stun grenades and flashball rounds fired at them while covering these protests, despite being clearly identifiable by their helmets and “Press” armbands.

The 20 April protests were also marked by the arrests of two freelancers, Gaspard Glanz, the founder of the Taranis News website, and Alexis Kraland. Glanz’s heavy-handed arrest and the decision to hold him for 48 hours were not justified by his inappropriate gesture towards the policeman who had just given him a violent push.  Similarly, the decision to ban Glanz from covering the next protests is disproportionate and constitutes obstruction of the right to report.

The many cases of police violence towards journalists is quite simply chilling,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “It is especially disturbing to see the security forces trampling on the freedom to inform in this manner. On the eve of further protests, we urge them to respect the basic rules of press freedom.

The latest cases of violence against journalists in France came just two days after RSF published its 2019 World Press Freedom Index, in which France is now ranked 32nd out of 180 countries.

The gas – Let’s make it a what if…

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There is a lot of talk about the gas being used during the protests by police. Streets are absolutely filled with it and there is no way of escaping it. The police block the roads from all sides except for one or two, usually smaller street, shoot gas in that street and start pushing the people into the streets. No escape possible. They confiscate all the protection against the gas. Not only proper gas masks but als dust masks, that hardly help anyway, ski glasses, swimming glasses, etcetera. Now it is legal to do so, thanks to the anti-hooligan law, but they did that before the law was passed. So. There is word that the gas raises the cyanide levels in the body (when you smoke times 7). There is a natural level in the blood and the gas raises these levels. It is absorbed through skin and by breathing. The cyanide is actually turned into Thiocyanate. Analysis have been done but nothing is 100% proven. Not that it is true, not that it is false. The sounds about the truth go both ways. So for safety purposes let’s assume a “what if it is true”.
What are the symptoms?
What are the consequenses?
And what can you do about it? The symptoms are almost the same as when you have a lack of oxygen. As you can imagine this is very dangerous and even lethal, and if it doesn’t kill you it does have long term after affects, including severe braindamage. On the day of being gassed you can experience
– dizziness
– disorientation
– loss of consciousness
The gas also burns on your skin, in your eyes, mouth and throat and makes your eyes tear, your nose run and you will produce a lot saliva. The days after being gassed you can experience
– exhaustion (cyanide is turned into thiocyanate and this makes the liver work very hard)
– women can have abundant periods (because of the lack of oxygen it can change the regular menstrual cycle)
– muscle cramps (thanks to the lack of oxygen and iron levels can drop) Especially women that are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant should be very careful. Research has shown that the lack of oxygen can lead to malformation of the unborn baby. And can even lead to miscarriages. So what can you do about it?
Staying out of the gas is not always possible. You can get caught up in it even if you have no intention of being at the protest.
And gas masks can help, but can also be confiscated and that doesn’t prevent the gas molecules from entering your body through your skin.
If you have been exposed to the gas it is very important that you take good care of yourself, take a lot of rest and watch what you eat, drink and do to help your liver to process the toxic molecules that entered your body. Good for the liver are:
– food with a lot of fibers like oatmeal
– broccoli
– coffee (two or three cups a day)
– green tea
– water
– nuts, especially almonds
– spinach
– blueberries
– dark chocolate
– olives
– plums
– oregano
– sage
– rosemary
– cinnamon
– curry powder
– cumin
– meat
– dairy (low fat)
– work out / excercise Not good for the liver are
– fatty foods like french fries and burgers
– sugar
– processed food like bacon or deli meats
– canned vegetables
– a lot of salt
– alcohol is really bad for the liver
– potato chips and baked snacks
– white bread
– white rice
– regular pasta
– limit red meat
– avoid cleaning products, insecticides, chemicals and additives Just in case the what if… turns out to be true… Personally I have experienced some of the symptoms. Muscle pains, extreme tiredness, strange period cycle. But I can also find other excuses for that. A lot of walking, high stress levels, illness due to being soaking wet from rain and water tank. Fact is neither has been really proven yet. So just in case it turns out to be true… take all the above in consideration… Sources: “ Tear gas containing ortho chlorobenzylidene malonitrile wis labeled « CS » gas was first synthetized in 1928 (1) and used in military applications, especially in Vietnam conflict (2) before being banned for military application in 1998.
This molecule can be absorbed through skin and respiratory tract (3). Once in blood, it is metabolized into malononitrile, which is in turn metabolized into cyanide (3).
Cyanide is then processed very quickly into Thiocyanate because of its high toxicity.” (1) Corson, Ben B.; Stoughton, Roger W. (1928). « Reactions of Alpha, Beta-Unsaturated Dinitriles ». Journal of the American Chemical Society. 50 (10): 2825–2837.
(2) WHO (World Health Organization). Health Aspects of Chemical and Biological Weapons; Geneva, Switzerland. 1970. [Dec. 30, 2013].
(3) Olajos EJ, Salem H. Riot control agents: pharmacology, toxicology,biochemistry and chemistry. J Appl Toxicol. 2001 Sep-Oct;21(5):355-91. Review. PubMed PMID: 11746179. 1) Normal thiocyanate levels (µM to mg/l conversion : x0.058) 2) CS to cyanide metabolism
3) pr. Massimo Zucchetti
4) Other CS effects :
5) WACO :

Protests at the Whitney Over a Board Member Whose Company Sells Tear Gas

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Protesters chanted and held banners in the lobby of the Whitney Museum on Friday night.CreditAndrew White for The New York Times

Protesters chanted and held banners in the lobby of the Whitney Museum on Friday night.
Protesters chanted and held banners in the lobby of the Whitney Museum on Friday night.CreditCreditAndrew White for The New York Times

Visitors who arrived at the Whitney Museum of American Art on Friday night to view the works in this year’s politically tingedBiennial had to pass by a raucous demonstration that was not part of the official programming.

About 200 people squeezed into the Whitney’s lobby, in the ninth of a series of weekly gatherings to protest a museum board member whose company sells tear gas that activists and the art publication Hyperallergic said had been used on migrants at the Mexican border.

It was the most recent episode in a prolonged public debate — involving letters and pronouncements by museum employees and officials, scholars, artists and art critics — over the board member, Warren B. Kanders, and his company, Safariland.

According to Hyperallergic, photos showed tear gas canisters marked with the company’s name at a site where the American authorities used tear gas last fall to disperse hundreds of migrants running toward a crossing that leads from Tijuana to San Diego.

Protesters outside the museum and in the lobby on Friday night beat drums, blew horns, chanted and brandished signs like one that read “Warren Kanders Must Go.” Some made it to an upper floor, where a black banner was draped from the building, reading, “When We Breathe We Breathe Together.”

There was even a rolling installation that seemed custom made for the occasion, in the form of a five-foot-tall silver-colored cylinder on wheels replete with a wire pull ring and emblazoned with the words “tear gas.”

An organizer with the group Decolonize This Place, which called for the weekly protests, read from a message to the Whitney’s director, Adam Weinberg, and its board of trustees demanding they remove Mr. Kanders from the board.

“We could have shut the museum down today,” the organizer, Amin Husain, shouted in the lobby. “But after nine weeks of action we offer the museum leadership a window to do the right thing.”

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CreditAndrew White for The New York Times

The Whitney Museum declined to comment.

Ticket holders passed by, gazing quizzically. Some paused to listen or to accept copies of the message that Mr. Husain was reading from. One woman shook her head and waved a hand when offered a copy. Museum employees stood by and watched the protest, but did not try to stop it or to prevent anyone from entering the lobby.

Last year dozens of museum employees wrote a letter to express their “outrage” over reports that Safariland gas had been used at the border. Mr. Kanders then wrote a letter saying he took pride in the company. He added that Safariland made equipment, like body armor, that helped protect people and that it had no control over how its products were used.

In a letter, Mr. Weinberg said that he respected “the right to dissent.” But the Whitney, he added, is “first and foremost a museum” that “cannot right all the ills of an unjust world.”

Several art critics, academics and others followed with a letter calling for Mr. Kanders’s removal. Last month about two-thirds of the 75 artists and collectives chosen for the Biennial also signed the letter.

One of the Biennial participants, the London-based research agency Forensic Architecture, entered as its exhibition a 10-minute video called “Triple-Chaser” with Praxis Films, run by the filmmaker Laura Poitras, about a type of tear gas grenademanufactured by Safariland.

After about an hour in the museum lobby, the protesters filed out and began marching through the West Village, accompanied by a contingent of police officers.

The roving demonstration halted on a tree-lined block outside a red-brick townhouse that the protesters said belonged to Mr. Kanders. Outside the residence, the chants continued. “Your time is up,” one woman shouted. Another woman burned a bundle of sage near the home, as if to ritually cleanse the premises.

A man distributed fliers addressed to residents of the block “and everyone in New York City” that listed the address of the building said to belong to Mr. Kanders and contended that his company’s tear gas had been used on migrants at the Mexican border, on Palestinians in Gaza and on protesters in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo.

As rain arrived, the ranks of the crowd thinned, and soon a final chant went up: “We’ll be back.”Correction: May 18, 2019

An earlier version of this article referred inaccurately to an official of the Whitney Museum. Adam Weinberg is the museum’s director; he is not its president.

Gaz lacrymogène et santé

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Je regarde un transfert d’une journée d’événements à Paris, via RT. Grâce à la technologie moderne, tout ce qui se passe se fait simplement sentir dans ma chambre. Bien pas tous. Je ne peux pas sentir le gaz lacrymogène, mais comme je tombe dans ceux qui n’ont pas peur de dire ce qu’ils pensent, il suffit de suffisamment de cassettes pour se souvenir du jour où je l’ai inhalé dans la rue. Puis, lorsque les yeux sont enflés et flous, peu de gens ont déjà pensé à ce qu’est une larme. Ensuite, il est seulement important d’arrêter la douleur et de voir. Normal

Maquereau ou lacrymatoire Le gaz qui pleure appartient aux armes chimiques. On peut affirmer que cela ne sert qu’à disperser les manifestants et à ajouter leur version de leurs traits – maudits, sales, voyous, gens, héros. Déjà par affinités personnelles. Il existe plusieurs types de gaz lacrymogène, à savoir: – Spray au poivre – Spray de Pava – gaz CS – gaz CN – gaz CR Le spray au poivre est principalement destiné à un usage personnel comme défense contre les attaques et est composé de piments forts et de poivrons, qui sont ajoutés au maïs. Tout est naturel, n’est-ce pas? PAVA spray est utilisé par la police britannique. Il s’agit d’une solution à 0,3% de vanillylamide d’acide pélargonique (PAVA), de capsaïcinoïde synthétique, d’éthanol et d’azote sous forme de gaz. Il est généralement utilisé à faible distance et agit sur les yeux, provoquant une douleur intense et obligeant à fermer les yeux.

Le gaz CS est le 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile (également appelé o-chlorobenzylidène malononitrile; formule chimique: C10H5ClN2) et le cyanocarbone, qui sont tous stockés dans des cartouches. Cause une sensation sévère dans les yeux avec fermeture, larmes, nausée, désorientation, fermeture nasale, démangeaisons, toux et difficulté à respirer. La police exprime son amour pour les manifestations. Le gaz CN est du chlorure de phénacyle, également connu sous le nom de chloroacétophénone, peut être synthétisé par acylation de Friedel-Crafts du benzène en utilisant du chlorure de chloroacétyle, le chlorure d’aluminium servant de catalyseur. Il a été considéré qu’en raison de sa toxicité prononcée, il ne serait pas utilisé, mais, comme toujours, le mal causé par l’homme prédomine et fait partie du spray MACE connu. Il est le favori des formations paramilitaires. Le gaz CR ou dibenzoxazépine a été mis au point par le ministère britannique de la défense. Il est dix fois plus efficace que le reste et est cancérigène. Il est également mentionné par la Human Rights Association. Il irrite la peau, crée des attaques de panique, des suffocations, un combat aérien. Utilisé à l’intérieur, il peut provoquer la mort par étouffement et un œdème des poumons.

Effets sur la santé
L’utilisation de gaz lacrymogène a été considérablement envahie par la végétation ces dernières années. Il est utilisé dans les villes densément peuplées, telles que Le Caire, Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro, Manama (Bahreïn) et Hong Kong. Également dans les émeutes à Ferguson, dans le Missouri. L’utilisation de gaz lacrymogène entraîne de nombreux problèmes de santé qui peuvent être aigus et chroniques. Aigu Ce sont des effets immédiats après l’utilisation et le but de l’utilisation est d’induire ces effets. Irritation des yeux, de la bouche, du nez, de la peau et du système respiratoire. Les effets cutanés comprennent la douleur, des démangeaisons, des rougeurs et une possible dermatite de contact allergique. Déchirure oculaire (oculaire), démangeaisons, blafarospasme, douleur, rougeur et sensation de brûlure. 

Les effets sur le système respiratoire et leur histoire sont un exemple passionnant de mauvaise science. Afin de prouver que les larmes étaient inoffensives, des études ont été menées sur des animaux de laboratoire et une étude sur des soldats volontaires en bonne santé n’a été réalisée que sur sept sujets; tous ceux ayant déjà eu des problèmes respiratoires étaient exclus de l’étude. Ce n’est pas comme ça. Toutes les études comparent les résultats avec des personnes qui ont déjà été exposées à une activité de l’acide lactique plutôt que de manière chronique. C’est comme beaucoup d’autres agents si seulement de petites doses sont comptées. Cependant, qu’en est-il des expositions chroniques et en Turquie, par exemple? Personne ne conteste les effets actuels, ils ne peuvent pas le voir. D’autre part, si nous introduisons dans l’équation d’un groupe à risque tel que les fumeurs, ceux qui sont plus exposés au radon, les fumeurs plus exposés au radon, les personnes asthmatiques, souffrant de douleur obstructive pulmonaire chronique et d’autres maladies pulmonaires chroniques, obtiennent toutefois des résultats différents. Quelqu’un dira – et que feront-ils lors des manifestations? – et ce ne sera pas juste. Le droit humain fondamental est de se rebeller contre ce qui est considéré comme une injustice.

Des manifestations massives en Turquie ont montré que des problèmes respiratoires importants tels que l’apnée, l’œdème pulmonaire, des arrêts respiratoires et une hémoptysie se produisaient. Trouver chez les femmes était pire que chez les hommes. En ce qui concerne les zones densément peuplées, les locataires environnants étaient chez eux. Une étude plus sérieuse a montré que des problèmes respiratoires chroniques se sont produits chez 55 personnes sur 93 ayant été exposées au gaz lacrymogène plus d’une fois. L’effet primaire prolongé est la bronchite chronique. Problèmes respiratoires chez le personnel militaire Les militaires sont exposés à de nombreuses déchirures lors de leur entraînement régulier. La vérité est qu’ils ont un masque à gaz, mais cela ne signifie pas que chacun d’eux fonctionne parfaitement. Les effets chroniques sont la toux, les maux de gorge, la sinusite, la rhinopharyngite, la bronchite et autres. Les problèmes augmentent surtout après la grippe. Comme ce problème dure longtemps, la quantité de gaz utilisée est réduite. Maintenant, ce n’est pas clair pour moi, s’ils connaissent le problème, pourquoi nient-ils que des civils puissent être blessés?
Effets sur les yeux

Il est logique que les yeux d’une étoile à gaz lacrymogène. C’est leur but. Cependant, si l’objectif d’invalidité temporaire ne devrait pas être l’objectif de blessures permanentes. La haine pour d’autres idées est-elle si forte? Lésion oculaire, œdème stromal, dépression conjonctivale, injection de vascularisation oculaire profonde. Autres complications oculaires telles qu’hémorragie, neuropathie traumatique de l’œil, kératite, kératoplastie trophique, symblephonie, pseudoptérigisme, glaucome et cataracte. Impressionnant. 
Blessures à la peau Une grande quantité de gaz lacrymogène a été utilisée chez les réfugiés vietnamiens à Hong Kong. Il y a eu de nombreuses blessures à la peau sous forme de brûlures, en particulier au niveau du visage, du cou et des épaules. En outre, une dermatite et des lésions vasculaires se produisent. 
Troubles gastro-intestinaux et cardiovasculaires

L’irritation du système gastro-intestinal va avec les nausées, les vomissements, la diarrhée et les hématomes. Comme pour le système cardiovasculaire, les effets sont la tachycardie et l’hypertension transitoire. En outre, les attaques de panique et les peurs.
Blessures graves et mort
On signale de nombreux effets graves, blessures graves et décès. Cela s’applique particulièrement à une utilisation en intérieur. Plusieurs décès ont été signalés dans plusieurs prisons. C’est une pratique courante dans les prisons qui sont souvent mal ventilées. Ceux qui ont déjà une maladie pulmonaire précoce sont les plus susceptibles de souffrir. Les morts étaient en Égypte, en Turquie, à Bahreïn et au Brésil. Le cas le plus célèbre est celui de 37 morts à la fois dans une prison en Egypte. Des cas d’avortement ont été rapportés après une exposition au gaz lacrymogène. Je suis optimiste quand je crois que ces mots écrits toucheront au moins une personne qui ordonne l’utilisation de l’essence. Un seul à s’arrêter et dire, qu’il y ait d’autres moyens. Force force le pouvoir. Il y a toujours un moyen de conclure un marché. Il suffit que l’accord soit recherché. La vie a montré qu’il n’ya pas de problème qui ne puisse être résolu par un accord. Je sais que je donne de faux espoirs, mais au moins j’essaye, essaie et toi, quelqu’un va parfois s’arrêter.


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A Palestinian woman died after inhaling tear gas fired by the Israeli army to disperse protesters near Bethlehem. (File photo: Reuters)AFP, BethlehemTuesday, 15 April 2014Text size AAA

A Palestinian woman died in hospital after inhaling tear gas used by the Israeli army to disperse protesters near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, a medical official said Tuesday.

But the military denied tear gas was the cause of death.

Late on Monday the army « fired tear gas near the home of the woman, who was suffering from health problems, » the medical official told AFP.

The woman, in her 40s, « died after arriving at hospital, » the official said.

The incident took place at Ayda refugee camp northwest of Bethlehem, where Palestinians regularly clash with Israeli soldiers.

« The death was not linked to the use of riot dispersal means by the army, including tear gas, » an army spokeswoman said, confirming the clashes but giving no further details.

In a similar incident in January, an 85-year-old Palestinian man died in his own home after breathing in tear gas fired by Israeli security forces near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

On Monday, an Israeli civilian was killed in a shooting near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, the army said, as the seven-day Jewish Passover holiday began.


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As a former British soldier faces charges, here is the background to one of the darkest days of the Troubles

Ben Quinn @BenQuinn75

Thu 14 Mar 2019 16.30 GMTLast modified on Thu 14 Mar 2019 19.30 GMT

Family members of Bloody Sunday victims make their way to the Guildhall in Derry on 14 March.
 Family members of Bloody Sunday victims make their way to the Guildhall in Derry on 14 March. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

In an atmosphere of heightened tension – but also hope – thousands of men, women and children took to the streets of Derry on 30 January 1972.

Having gathered to protest peacefully about internment, under a new law introduced to detain people without trial indefinitely, the march began shortly after 3pm in the Creggan area and made its way by a circuitous route through the city’s nationalist districts.

The march had been organised under the auspices of the Northern IrelandCivil Rights Association – formed originally as a broad coalition of trade unionists, socialists, nationalists, republicans and others – but was taking place against the backdrop of regular clashes between the security forces and Irish republicans in which firearms had been used by both sides.

Soldiers use CS gas against rioters in Derry, 30 January 1972.
 Soldiers use CS gas against rioters in Derry, 30 January 1972. Photograph: PA

While their intended destination was the Guildhall building in the centre, the marchers were instead directed by the British army towards the landmark of Free Derry Corner. Troops had arrived in force just over two years earlier following violent clashes between civilians and police in 1969.

By 1972 however, the nationalist community had largely turned against the troops, regarding them as being agents of the same oppressive regime as the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the Northern Irish police force viewed by nationalists as the embodiment of sectarianism.

From the archive, 1 February 1972: Derry’s Bloody Sunday

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On the morning of what would become known as Bloody Sunday, troops from the Parachute Regiment were manning barricades. They were later ordered to move forward to make arrests after skirmishes broke out with young men who had detached from the main protest.

Rubber bullets, teargas and water cannons were used about 4pm as stones were thrown before troops made their way down William Street with orders to arrest as many as possible. A short time later soldiers opened fire around the corner on Rossville Street.

Murals in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland.
 Murals in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

In all, according to army evidence, some 21 soldiers fired 108 live rounds over the course of a day on which 13 people were killed and 15 wounded.

The first casualty of gunfire after soldiers had gone into the nationalist Bogside area of the city in an attempt to make arrests was John Duddy, 17, who was shot and mortally wounded on the western side of the Rossville flats car park.

A photograph of a priest and others carrying the dying teenager – also known as Jackie and one of six 17-year-olds who died – would become one of the most famous images of the Northern Ireland Troubles. The oldest victim was Bernard McGuigan, 41, a father of six children.

McGuigan, who been waving a white handkerchief in his hand, died instantly after he was shot in the head as he went to the aid of Patrick Doherty, a 31-year-old father-of-six who was mortally wounded when he was shot from behind while attempting to crawl to safety.

A mural in Derry depicting the famous image of Jackie Duddy being carried away after being shot.
 A mural in Derry depicting the famous image of Jackie Duddy being carried away after being shot. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

The other dead included Hugh Gilmour, 17, Kevin McElhinney, 17, Michael Kelly, 17, John Young, 17, William Nash,19, and Michael McDaid, 20. All were shot at a rubble barricade on Rossville Street beside the flats.

Four others were killed nearby at Glenfada Park: James Wray, 22, Gerald Donaghy, 17, William McKinney, 27, and Gerald McKinney, a 35-year-old father of eight who was not related to Gerard.

Another man, John Johnston, 59, has long been regarded as the 14th fatality of Bloody Sunday. Although he survived the day, after he was shot twice by soldiers inside a derelict building in William Street, he died months later.

The shootings finally ended at around 4.40pm. The British army claimed that it had come under fire in the Rossville flats areas of the city.

British paratroopers take away civil rights demonstrators on Bloody Sunday.
 British paratroopers take away civil rights demonstrators on Bloody Sunday. Photograph: Getty Images

Eyewitnesses insisted that none of the dead were armed, although Lord Saville, who chaired the Bloody Sunday inquiry, found that Gerald Donaghy, a member of the IRA’s youth wing, was “probably” carrying nail bombs. The inquiry was also “sure” that he was not preparing or attempting to throw a bomb when he was shot. His family insisted that the four bombs were planted by the security forces.

It would take two investigations – including one by Lord Widgery that largely cleared the soldiers and authorities of blame – before David Cameron made a formal apology on behalf of the UK government for what had happened on the day.

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In this excerpt from Tear Gas, Anna Feigenbaum describes the history of the Himsworth Report, used by governments around the world to justify the use of tear gas.


The Battle of Bogside, photo from a 1969 booklet published by The Bogside Republican Appeal Fund.

This essay is excerpted from Tear Gas: From the Battlefields of WWI to the Streets of Today,out now from Verso and 30% off.

Derry — or Londonderry, depending on which side of “the troubles” your sympathies lie — is located just beside the border that cuts the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland. As residents will tell you, “The split name says it all.” While road signs inside the Republic will point you toward “Derry,” those in Northern Ireland direct you to “Londonderry.” Both are constantly defaced, leaving visible layers of the city’s contentious past.

The city’s colonial architecture and unique landscape have shaped the political struggles of its inhabitants for more than four centuries. Between 1614 and 1619, King James I erected city walls of thick lime, earth, and local stone to protect (and partition) Protestant settlers from Irish Catholic rebels — financed by the London businessmen of the Irish Society, chartered in 1613 for economic development via colonial expansion in Ireland.

Outside the city walls was the area now known as the Bogside. Originally underwater, this area gained its name when water levels fell and the river became a stream, eventually allowing structures to be built along the bog’s side. The 1700s and 1800s saw impoverished Donegal families move into the area. They are thought to have been in transit, seeking passage out, but limited finances and few job skills left them stuck in the Bog, in poor conditions. Over time, the population grew younger and the area’s infrastructure older. By the mid-1900s, overcrowding was commonplace throughout the Bogside. Three generations of family could be found crammed into two rooms. “Allegations of discrimination in housing allocations,” a 1967 Royal Commission report read, “exist on a wide scale, particularly where a dispersal of the population would result in a changed political base.” 2

To keep their seats, members of Parliament tried to secure districts by forcing Irish families to remain in the Bogside. A new housing estate, the Rossville Flats, went up, standing ten stories high and housing 178 families. The building’s red, yellow, and blue décor and flat, railed rooftop made it a pillar amid the area’s sunken landscape. Yet this mega-estate was not enough to solve the housing shortage. Plans for more home construction in other wards encountered challenges from the Unionist Corporation, which continued to block progress and to maintain political and economic control of Derry.

Inspired by struggles overseas, particularly in the United States, Palestine, and South Africa, Bogside tenants and local socialists began to organize, forming, among other groups, the Derry Housing Action Committee. “There was high unemployment, no housing program at all, electoral boundaries which hadn’t been expanded, and there was no such thing as one man one vote — there were all sorts of things wrong,” committee member Dermie McClenaghan recalls. The organization began by disrupting housing council meetings. A direct-action campaign soon followed in the flurry of worldwide uprisings across the spring of 1968.

On an unusually clear January day in 1969, unarmed civil rights protesters marched under blue skies from Belfast to Derry. At a bridge crossing just outside Derry’s city center, they were met by loyalists carrying rocks and sticks, who beat them as the police watched, doing nothing. This led to rioting in town, followed by retaliation as loyalists smashed Bogside windows and harassed people in their homes. A few months later, on April 19, threats of violence from loyalist militants persuaded civil rights organizers to call off a scheduled march. Civil rights supporters gathered together in the city square to recuperate, but loyalists pelted them with rocks. This time, the police did not stand by doing nothing. Instead, they charged at the civil rights supporters, batons swinging. Back at the City Hotel, the organizers’ hub, panicked residents were rushing in with reports that Bogside boys were being beaten and unlawfully arrested. Then came the news of Sammy Devenney.

A well-respected middle-aged man in the Bogside, Sammy Devenney was uninvolved in political activity; his home was in the pathway of young rioters. Devenney’s eighteen-year-old daughter Ann remembers the anger in the policemen’s voices as they approached the house: “I could see them, banging at the windows with their batons … about five or six of them were at the window and they said, ‘We’ll break the effin’ door down.’” The police stormed in. Ann used her body to shield her younger sister, who was recovering from an appendix operation. Out of the corner of her eye, Ann watched as the police attacked her father. “There were three of them at my daddy with batons … and they kicked him in his stomach and his back and they were just hitting him everywhere.” 4

News of the attack spread through the Bogside. Men rushed from the hotel to the Devenney’s home. They found the door kicked in and the sitting room covered in spatters of blood — walls, chair, floor, ceiling, even across the face of Sammy’s four-year-old son. According to an inquiry report, Devenney was “left lying on the floor with blood pouring from a number of head wounds and with his dentures and spectacles broken.” Less than two months later, the injury killed him. 6

The Battle of the Bogside

Shortly after Devenney’s death came the controversial Apprentice Boys march, an annual commemorative march that carried the legacy of British force in Northern Ireland, complete with loyalist songs, “done with the utmost arro- gance and bravado to show once again who won the battle many years ago.” 7 The parade’s drum and fife bands celebrate Protestant settlers’ defeat of an Irish- and Scottish-led siege on the walled city in 1689.

In the lead-up to the march, a Derry Citizens’ Defence Association formed and met with senior figures of the Apprentice Boys to request the parade be rerouted. Their request was refused. Fearing the troubles to come, some older and younger residents sought refuge outside the Bogside. Barricades went up and calls went out for able-bodied men to come and defend the community. They wove piles of wood and wire modeled after the 1968 barricades of Paris’s boulevards. Young community leader and local MP Bernadette Devlin became a central strategist of the street, directing how to build and where to fortify structures.

On the day of the march, Derry was on edge. Loyalists rounded the city walls, taunting Bogsiders and throwing pennies as insulting symbols of poverty. 8 The Bogsiders stood firm at their barricades. By afternoon, the taunting on both sides turned to stone throwing. As evening fell, the police pushed through the Rossville Street barricade trailed by loyalists, looking like the vanguard of the Protestant militants. Loyalists smashed up windows of the towering Rossville estate, breaching the borders of Free Derry. The Bogsiders shortly regained momentum and, in crowds of a thousand strong, drove the loyalists back to the edge of the neighborhood. 9

At 11:45 that night, Rossville Street became the first UK site of civilian CS gassing. On advice from the Ministry of Defence, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) sought out CS supplies. “We originally had the CN variety,” explain RUC deputy inspector Shillington, “but we have been advised that CS is the more modern and humane type, which in fact is used by the services.” 10 The RUC quickly telephoned the Minister for Home Affairs. While driving from Belfast the Minister approved the deployment. Supplies of CS were brought in from nearby military storage. According to the RUC, the police responsible for discharging CS in the Bogside had received some, “but not enough,” training. 11 Officers were issued 1.5-inch Verey pistols with a seventy- to eighty-yard range for “defense,” as well as canisters to use when withdrawing. All day August 13, they fired CS intermittently in attempts to disperse the crowds. The gas kept coming until 4:30 in the afternoon on August 14. 12

Throughout this bombardment, the Bogsiders retaliated with petrol bombs, stones, and, when available, returned CS cartridges. On the second day of fighting, a group of Bogsiders positioned themselves atop the Rossville Flats. “The high flats was wonderful,” a Bogsider recalls. “But they needed ammunition, so you had to climb eight stories with a bin bag full of stones.” 13 With men and boys perched defensively on the rooftop, older residents gathered in their homes below, creating milk-bottle-bomb assembly lines, stuffing rags, sugar, flour, and wicks into bottles. The flat roof and periphery railing of the Rossville Flats provided an ideal tower-top defense in this otherwise sunken territory: From this perch, the elevated city walls that daily marked Bogsiders’ social and economic exclusions were for once on lower ground. But the Bogside’s depressed landscape also meant that the air could stagnate, CS hung in the area for hours. At other times the gas traveled, rolling with even the lightest breeze. It eased up into the broken windows of Bogside flats. Police also tried to launch CS atop the Rossville estate in efforts to quell the milk-bottle aerial attacks, but few, if any, of the cartridges made it up those ten stories. Instead, they smashed through the windows of residents’ homes.

One of these windows led into the room where a sixteen-month-old infant, Martin, slept. Hearing his baby cry and cough, Martin’s father ran in. He found the room filled with gas. His son was gasping for breath, tears running down his cheeks. His face had gone pale. Martin’s father felt his child might die without attention.

Derry resident Dr. Raymond McClean found himself baffled by the gas’s effects: “Not only were their eyes inflamed and watery, but many of them weren’t able to breathe to such an extent that several were carried in. I didn’t know what we were dealing with.” 14 People didn’t know how to respond. Were they better off opening windows and doors to clear it out, or should they shut them tighter to prevent another round getting in? As its inventors were well aware, gas causes as much psychological fear as it does physical pain.

Those in Derry who had any experience of mass gassing associated the CS with wartime bombings. People dug through their cupboards for old gas masks and distributed them around the streets. However, the old masks offered little protection. Their filters no longer worked and gas often got trapped inside them. In fact, many of the filters were made with asbestos, which is harmful to the respiratory system. Even after they were found to be ineffective, children took to the masks like toys. “We knew they didn’t work,” a Bogsider confesses, “but we liked the way they looked.” 15 These days were full of excitement and fear. “I never slept,” remembers Bernadette Devlin. “For three days and three nights, I was on an adrenaline high.” 16

As the gassing went on, coping tips began to trickle in. A US Army veteran who happened to be in Derry at the time offered advice, typed up in a leaflet that circulated around the Bogside streets. French students in the area are also reported to have taught locals how to flush their eyes out with water and hold vinegar-soaked handkerchiefs to their faces. Devlin recalls, “The whole air was saturated … and we’d not a gas mask between us … So we made do with wet blankets, with cotton wool steeped in vinegar, with handkerchiefs soaked in sodium bicarbonate.” 17 One elderly resident stood out on her stoop with a bottle of brown vinegar. As Bogsiders passed by, she poured a drop onto their outstretched handkerchiefs — which in many cases were not handkerchiefs at all but scraps of fabric, and in one boy’s case, an old pair of ladies’ underpants. 18

By the end of the thirty-six hours of CS gassing, a total of fourteen 50-gram grenades and 1,091 cartridges containing 12.5 grams of CS had blanketed the Bogside. This brought a flurry of media attention, with stories like baby Martin’s causing moral panic to ripple through the country. Facing a PR disaster, the Home Office had to act quickly, setting up yet another tribunal to look into Northern Ireland’s most recent disturbances and announcing that a full medical investigation would be conducted into the effects of CS gas in the Bogside.

The Chemical Defense Establishment

Sir Harold Himsworth, a physician in London, was appointed to lead the medical investigation. Himsworth, an advocate of fusing the skills of politicians and scientists, had served as secretary to the Medical Research Council and presided over the Section of Experimental Medicine at the Royal Society of Medicine. In 1952 he was knighted into the Order of Bath for his contributions to civil service. 19 A 1958 New Scientist article profiling Himsworth’s accomplishments called him a man of undoubted authority, “receptive, courteous and decisive.” 20

On September 1, 1969, Himsworth and his team arrived in Belfast. Their first stop was the Ministry of Health, where they were briefed on events in Derry by a group of Belfast doctors and government officials. They headed to the GOC Army headquarters for an “off the record” interview with Sir Ian Freeland, director of operations in Northern Ireland, and a briefing on the situation from a brigade commander. This was followed by another press conference in which Himsworth insisted that “there was nothing sinister in the use of CS gas.” 21 Himsworth was “kindly loaned” the Army’s Public Relations Officer, and by the end of the evening the team had additionally secured help from Colonel Millman, who “prof- fered any assistance within his power.” 22

On day two, Himsworth’s committee ventured into the Bogside. Picking their way over rubble and through the ruins of barricades, they were quickly surrounded by locals anxious to tell their stories. They questioned a girl clutching a teddy bear as her mother explained the persistence of her sore eyes and lips. Derry doctor Donal McDermott related that “scores of people had suffered from vomiting, diarrhea and nausea.” 23 A fifty-five-year-old resident reported that her pet budgie had died in its cage; others shared stories of how children’s suffering appeared more acute than adults’. Confused, scared youngsters often rubbed their eyes, worsening the effects. The committee canvassed the area, examining the Rossville Flats and CS cartridges saved by the Citizens’ Association. Himsworth expressed skepticism over media claims that there had been sixty to a hundred cases of gastroenteritis and diarrhea. If this were true, he argued, it should have been officially classified as a major crisis; illness at this scale required government notification. What he didn’t see was that, in the middle of a riot, people’s fears of arrest and the frenzy of the commotion bar many from seeking hospital treatment. Even under normal conditions, people in impoverished areas are reluctant to go to hospitals or doctors for digestive problems, preferring to tough it out or use home remedies, but in a city divided along religious, political, and economic lines, seeking formal medical care was even more contentious. This city of two names was also a city of two hospitals: The nearest was staffed by Unionist doctors, and many Bogside residents avoided it, opting instead to cross the border into Ireland and receive treatment there.

Most medical treatment during the Battle of Bogside happened in the Candy Corner shop at the top of Westland Street. Off-duty nurses and medics set up a treatment post inside the store. Dr. Raymond McClean’s wife Sheila drove over the bridge to the hospital for antiseptics, dressings, and suturing supplies. The Candy Corner first treated casualties from stone throwing and street fights. After the gassing began, the makeshift medical staff treated lacerations, concussions, and head injuries from CS cartridges, including a young man whose nose was nearly severed off his face. They worked without adequate space or equipment. As gas casualties poured in, volunteer nurse Attracta Bradley recalls, “We really were at a loss on what way to treat it because we’d really been taught basic first aid. We’d never been taught how to manage tear gas.” 24 The staff spent over twenty-four sleepless hours tending the CS victims. Then tear gas crept into the Candy Corner as the police advanced, forcing the medical team to relocate. Supplies in hand, they carried the sick up the hill to Creggan, where they re-established the first-aid center in the local Boys’ Club until the gassing finally ceased. 25

Amid these riotous conditions it is difficult to imagine how standard hospital notification procedures would be carried out. But Himsworth, a man of record, sought statistics. He was after authorized laboratory reports, not regular people’s tales of gassed babies or dead budgies. Throughout his diary of the visit, he records residents’ stories of their experiences and effects with suspicion and occasionally derision. For example, a physician at Altnagelvin hospital reported the case of chronic asthmatic Charles Coyle, age fifty. The committee recorded in their notes that the man:

had been getting steadily worse for some years. His story (typically Irish) was that on the night of 12 August he was on the city wall when CS gas was dropped some two or three hundred yards in front of him—he walked up to it and sniffed it. Feeling ill he went into the O’Range Hall where we stayed for a while. He then came out and got another whiff of the gas but walked half-a-mile home. For four days afterward he stayed at home, but didn’t see a doctor.

While it is unclear whether it was Himsworth, his secretary, or the doctor who found this case to be “typically Irish,” the comment’s documentation in a formal log signifies the disposition of the “independent” British investigation toward the civilians whose health and well-being they were documenting. Such prejudices matter. Himsworth’s rationalist approach and determination to keep questions of human conditions apart from scientific observations significantly shaped his findings. While personal details like Martin’s father’s fear that his infant might die were quickly dismissed, here the personal was placed in support of a medical description. If Himsworth’s observations had been explicitly acknowledged as military research, these biases could be traced to their root, making accountability easier to map. The problem lies in the claim that this enquiry was independent. The rhetoric and “off the record” meetings masked the team’s deeper connections to the government and military from public view. Their medical research was financed and authorized by the Home Office; the majority of guidance coming in on the ground in Derry was supplied by the military and police. Later, the Ministry of Defence’s Chemical Weapons branch became the key source of experimental data. This kind of scientific bias leads to partial pictures: People’s experiences get cut up and rearranged into government-sanctioned shapes. As with the chemists of World War I, who perfected their poisons to gain prestige, when clinical tasks trump human accountability, atrocity — however unintentional — often follows.

Himsworth’s committee traveled directly from Northern Ireland to Porton Down, the MoD’s chemical testing facility. Nestled within sixteen acres of countryside, Porton Down was a top-secret station for military research and weapons development, running throughout World War II and the Cold War period and continues to be so in the present day. An estimated twenty thousand military “volunteers” went through the facility, many as subjects in experiments on chemical agents. Told that the military was testing treatments for common colds, volunteers were guaranteed safety and given shillings for participation. As Rob Evans uncovered in researching his book Gassed, “They wanted to get away for any type of break, just anything … But sadly very few actually knew what Porton Down was, or what they were letting themselves in for.” 26

Some of the chemical agents tested on these young men and women included the nerve agent sarin, different mustard gases, and lachrymators — tear gases — as well as other kinds of chemicals, like smoke bombs and dyes. There were skin tests, oral tests, tests of irritants on the eyes, behavioral tests, and gas-chamber tests, among others. “It was hideous,” according to retired officer Patrick Mercer, “a hutted camp, where it seemed to do nothing but rain. There were a series of bunkers to which you were thrust from time to time to be gassed with CS and to go through ghastly exercises underground wearing a gas mask.” 27Between 1941 and 1985, approximately 8,850 tear gas tests, mostly of CN, CS, and CR agents, were conducted on more than 2,800 veterans. 28 The development of CS as a riot-control agent began in the 1950s and increased in the 1960s as unrest in Northern Ireland grew.

When Himsworth arrived at Porton Down in 1969, the facility was known as the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment, shortened the following year to the Chemical Defence Establishment (CDE). This secretive testing site has undergone eight name changes and numerous structural re-organizations in its near-century of operation. Today it is called the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. In the late 1990s, a large-scale probe was launched into the human experiments at Porton Down. Veteran Gordon Bell, supported by others, initiated the enquiry. Between 1959 and 1960 Mr. Bell had undergone three tests, including one with sarin and another with CS. His multiple requests for information regarding his records were refused. Determined to hold the government accountable, Bell continued to pressure law enforcement and government authorities to hold a formal investigation.

At a late-night House of Commons session in 1998, South Sutherland MP Chris Mullin raised Bell’s concerns before the Minister for the Armed Forces. “Not for the first time in matters of this nature, there is a feeling that the Ministry of Defence is being economical with the truth,” Mullin said. Citing similar claims brought forth to the House by Bournemouth veterans in 1996, Mullin insisted that Bell was not alone in his recollection of the experiments at Porton Down. This was not a case of retrospective blame, he argued. Rather, it suggested an intentional cover-up:

Many of those experiments and the manner in which they were conducted would have raised concern even by the standards of the 1950s—more so, in fact, as the experiments carried out by the Nazis that prompted the Nuremberg code were fresh in the public mind in the 1950s … I put it to the Minister [for the Armed Forces] that those who were the subject of the experiments at Porton Down were not told the truth precisely because it would have been unacceptable even by the standards of the time. 29

But in 1969, when Himsworth visited, all of this had yet to be exposed; the chemical testing facility was running business as usual, operating on what Grimley Evans describes as “wartime ethics.” In an atmosphere of perceived imminent attack, utility reigns supreme and military secrecy often overrides informed consent. On top of this, Porton Down was run by a mixed civilian and military staff. This created levels of secrecy and security clearance that made it difficult to practice any one protocol. It was hard to determine fault when things went wrong. 30 Such claims to layers of organizational complexity tend to evaporate accountability in what Linsey McGoey has called “strategic ignorances.” 31 The atrocity at Porton Down was not only the procedure, but the value system. What — and who — made it an issue of scientific importance to directly apply known poisons to people’s skin, lungs, and eyeballs without consent?

The results of the Porton Down experiments played a key role in the Himsworth Committee’s report. Between October 1969 and March 1971, Sir Himsworth and his team held a series of meetings at Whitehall in which they shared scientific findings, correspondence with medical professionals, and laboratory evidence. Their priorities included finding evidence of CS’s effects on the young, the elderly, and pregnant women, as well as people with previous illness. Himsworth also asked the committee to investigate cases of chemical manufacturers repeatedly exposed to CS and to gather “full details of the Vietnam experience.” 32

Conspicuously absent from the agenda was any reference to the United States’ widespread use of CS and other tear gases to combat civil protests. Himsworth was silent on the crushed labor strikes, civil rights struggles, antiwar protests, and even the helicopters that sprayed CS over thousands on the Berkeley campus just four months before the team’s first meeting, all of which were heavily publicized in the United States and discussed at UN meetings on the Geneva Protocol. The Geneva Protocol bans the use of chemical and bacteriological weapons in war. The United Kingdom and the other European Allies had signed onto the agreement in 1925. While the United States was instrumental in bringing the protocol forward and President Roosevelt made appeals to it during World War II, the United States did not ratify it until modifications were made in 1975. This position garnered international attention during its widespread use of chemical weapons in Vietnam. In 1966, the Hungarian delegation, backed by other Eastern European nations, put the matter back on the UN’s agenda. “The hollow pretexts given for using riot-control gases in Vietnam,” the Hungarians argued, “have been rejected by world public opinion and by the international scientific community, including scholars in the United States itself.” Appealing to the Geneva Protocol, Hungary called for the use of chemical weapons to constitute an international war crime. 33 One prominent US scholar who rejected the use of riot-control agents in Vietnam was Nobel laureate and Harvard professor George Wald, who attested that “under combat conditions, tear gas is part of a thoroughly lethal operation.” 34But the US delegation continued to argue that the Geneva Protocol should not prohibit riot-control agents, a position that garnered UK support.

Tear Gas as a Drug

Amid increasing counterinsurgency efforts in Northern Ireland and in light of these international debates, in February 1970 British foreign secretary Michael Stewart drew on the Himsworth Committee’s interim report to announce a new stance: “CS smoke is considered to be not significantly harmful to man in other than wholly exceptional circumstances; and we regard CS and other such gases accordingly as being outside the scope of the Geneva Protocol.” 35 This announcement led to uproar from members of Parliament, NGOs, antiwar groups, and UN delegates.

In June 1970 Sir Alec Douglas-Home took over as Foreign Secretary. While he had reservations over this policy change, the MoD was adamant that CS fell outside the Protocol’s restrictions, which deal with substances that were “significantly harmful or deleterious to man — an argument which it rejected.” 36 In addition, if the government were to deem CS deplorable in war, it would be difficult to justify its domestic use as a means of crowd control. The MoD appealed to the “smoke’s” pacifying powers: “CS has saved innocent lives and gave the police and army a much more humane option than batons, bayonets and bullets or bombs.” 37 This position would soon be validated by the Himsworth Committee, which posited that the effects of CS should be considered “from a standpoint more akin to that from which a drug is regarded than from that from which we regard a weapon.” 38 This framing worked to partition the team’s enquiry from concurrent debates over international law happening in Parliament; it was crucial that the public not be led to translate the ethics of combat to the domestic “troubles” in Northern Ireland. These guidelines, given by the Home Office, delineated a particular relationship between humans and tear gas. It asked the scientists to find a way to calculate safety, to measure it in doses. With drug tests in mind, the Himsworth Committee proceeded to consider CS’s effects with the ultimate aim of authorizing its use.

The government, like a drug company trying to push its product to the market by funding its own research, had employed Himsworth and his team as stakeholders; its members had vested interests in the research and development of this chemical agent. Dr. John Barnes, the committee’s technical advisor, worked in a research capacity for the Ministry of Defence throughout his time on the independent enquiry team. At the very first committee meeting Dr. Barnes raised the issue, “to be quite sure that it was appreciated that he was the Chairman of the Biology Advisory Committee of the Chemical Defence Advisory Board.” Sir Himsworth promptly reassured him: “The Committee is an independent body charged to make an independent investigation and to report to the Home Secretary.” The committee members were “to have no special relations with any other advisory bodies.” Requests for evidence should be made in the same way, whether from government departments or private individuals. 39 Moving between abstract independence and practical allegiance, Himsworth’s attempts to remain above bias were questioned by his own team.

In the final committee report, the team drew attention to some of the problems arising from their task: What did it in fact mean to consider a weapon as a drug? How could safety be measured medically? Investigating CS as a “druglike” substance required two key considerations. First, they had to determine what distinguished a safe dose from a dangerous dose; and to ask whether the difference was great enough that the drug could be certified as safe. Second, they had to examine the side effects. Were they too great to outweigh the drug’s benefits?, “CS is usually used not in relation to a particular single individual, but in relation to a population,” they noted; during a civil disturbance, it is not only “healthy young adults” who face gassing. CS can affect anyone in the vicinity, including “children, the old, pregnant women and the ill, who are exposed inadvertently.” 40 Determining safety and risk in these circumstances, the committee pointed out, was both medical and political.

Unlike most drugs, CS is not administered in a controlled oral or topical dose. It is no antibiotic tablet or eczema cream. Deployed as a fog or smoke, CS consists of tiny droplets that are absorbed through the skin and inhaled through the lungs. Its effects vary with weather conditions, topology, spatial structures, pre-existing medical conditions, and personal tolerance levels. These factors make it difficult to determine the exact level of a “dangerous dose.” But “by Command of her Majesty,” Himsworth and his team accomplished just this.

The Himsworth Report

The committee presented clinical, experimental, and observed evidence, doing their best to bracket off any “element of emotion” from their presentation of findings. Extrapolating from animal experiments, since human experience could not be trusted, the Himsworth Committee listed and refuted side effects, detailed dangerous doses, and offered operational guidance. In the end, CS got its clearance for use during civil disturbances. It was labeled safe for the young and old, as well as pregnant women; some warning was given that it should be used with strict guidance in enclosed locations. 41

Derry doctor Raymond McClean, a prominent figure in Derry’s nascent civil rights struggles who went on to become mayor, met Himsworth during the committee’s whirlwind tour of the Bogside. They dined at the Broomhill Hotel, accompanied by McClean’s wife Sheila, a local art teacher, and Himsworth’s secretary, Major Snowden. Sheila spoke with Himsworth at length about literature and politics. While Raymond found Himsworth affable, he sensed that Himsworth was a “grey areas man” — a feeling that later proved all too true.

McClean wrote to Sir Himsworth, “I have discussed your taste in literature with my wife Sheila on many occasions since our last meeting. Apparently she has some understanding of how an intelligent, educated, sensitive person can be interested in injustice and brutality only on some higher plane. I must admit that this understanding has not been given to me.” 42 The two men corresponded during the production of the committee’s report. At the Candy Corner medical station, McClean had treated CS patients with epilepsy who were “carried into the medical centers in a state of collapse and rigor.” Himsworth’s team declined to look into CS’s effects on epilepsy, concluding instead that “during the period of excitement [epilepsy patients] may have omitted to take their drugs.” Furious, McClean wrote in haste to the British Medical Journal objecting that this claim had no scientific merit. Privately, he wrote to Himsworth, “I was ashamed for you when I read the committee’s comments on epilepsy.” 43 He also challenged the report’s evaluation of CS as a drug, questioning how the political situation in Northern Ireland could be reduced to a set of side effects and insubstantial sociological factors. Drawing on his own experiences of increasingly violent repression and internment in Northern Ireland, McClean spread word that “the real purpose of this report must remain in serious question.” 44

McClean was far from alone in his objections. Two years before the final report was released, the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (BSSRS) preemptively criticized the enquiry, arguing that it was important for the committee to look beyond the clinical and include social scientists’ perspectives “if it is to make the necessary inquiries about the effects of the use of CS gas — not merely on the eyes and lungs of those who consulted doctors, but on the whole group of people affected.” 45 In 1970, the magazine New Societypublished a very different picture of the effects of gas in Derry. Unlike Himsworth’s team, the BSSRS sought to understand the informal medical care provided during the Battle of the Bogside. While for Himsworth Derry residents’ lack of hospitalizations was evidence that few people needed medical care, the BSSRS researchers recognized that at times “there were too many causalities to count” seeking treatment at makeshift first-aid stations that had to be repeatedly cleared from CS contamination. 46

Himsworth had rejected the prospect of carrying out an epidemiological investigation like that proposed by the BSSRS, arguing that widespread questioning “would certainly cause alarm and the retrospective replies obtained would be of very dubious value.” 47 He arranged for BSSRS representatives to give evidence at a committee meeting, but ultimately dismissed their reports as unsubstantiated sociology. 48 Indeed, over the course of the investigation Himsworth created doubt around a number of findings and observations, including those of Professor Francis Kahn from the Sorbonne. In 1966 and 1967 Kahn had traveled to Vietnam to investigate the effects of chemical gases on the civilian population and brought back samples from Tay-Ninh that he had collected from an 801b barrel “with a mask and many troubles.” 49 During his travels Kahn had been shown footage and told anecdotes by Vietnamese doctors and local people of deaths resulting from tear gas. CS grenades were being fired into shelters and tunnels where Vietnamese families were hiding.

While the US Army claimed to be using only CS, many questioned that this chemical agent alone could cause death. The final Himsworth report also raised doubts, noting that Professor Kahn “had no first hand contact with cases there” and that death by asphyxiation could not be directly faulted to CS. The committee suggested that the Vietnamese people’s behavior had led to their own deaths: burrowing into makeshift bomb shelters in efforts to escape the poisons shot from the sky, some ended up starved of oxygen while hiding inside.50

In addition to his research in Vietnam, Kahn also investigated the use of CN and CS (called CB in France) during the May 1968 uprisings in Paris. Kahn was a member of the Union of University Teachers and stood on the front lines during the student protests. From within the crowd, he observed cases of panic, eye lesions, and unconsciousness. Professor Kahn also shared the case of Madame Macina, an older woman with a respiratory condition who had died after being caught up in clouds of tear gas. No autopsy was done and she was legally declared to have died of natural causes. Unsatisfied, Professor Kahn attempted to discover more; however, as he explained in a letter to Himsworth, “when we tried to go on in the study of this case, we faced problems since the witnesses, including her doctor, the drivers of the ambulance and her own family did refuse to give us further details.” The professor presumed this was because of “hard pressure from the police.” 51

The Himsworth Report noted this case, but made no mention of Kahn’s comments on the difficulties of obtaining evidence:

The subject was an elderly woman who was known to suffer from a chronic illness that caused shortness of breath. Despite this, she took an active part in the disturbances of the 6th May … Toward the end of the day she got increasingly breathless and in the evening become so ill that she sent to hospital. She was dead on arrival … in view of her previous illness, death was certified as due to natural causes. Clearly the medical man concerned felt justified in believing that her death was related to her pre-existing condition. In the absence of further evidence, we can only accept this. 52

Sterilizing the enquiry process from emotion, politics, and personal experience helped Himsworth construct a tidy report, but the scientific method alone could not be trusted to sift through all the laboratory results. The team needed to make sure the press did not get hold of any unappealing experimental data before the publication of the report. During the committee’s eighth, ninth, and tenth meetings, a number of experiments arose showing more severe effects of CS. With mounting pressure to deliver the final report, the chairman had to decide how to handle these unpublished experiments, which became known as the Porton Papers. The committee agreed that the Porton Papers would not be sent out for publication in scientific journals until three to six months after the report was published, as the papers “could be used by hostile parties to confuse the lay public.” 53

Ultimately, the Himsworth Report trumpeted experimental results over medical observations and continually down- played the significance of personal testimony. Personal details on patients were only included when it served to mitigate the ill effects of CS, as in the case of Madame Macina, Vietnamese peasants, and the Bogside father of baby Martin. Likewise, social scientists’ claims that CS effects must be considered in their economic and political context were bracketed at the very outset from debate. Suggestions that the psychological conditions of riot situations could have physiological impacts were brought up in the final report, only to be separated out from the “real effects” of CS. The report treated bodily reactions as side effects; as if they were the result of personal dysfunctions or rare allergies to an everyday product, rather than human bodies responding to poisoned air.

Domestically, the Himsworth Report’s stamp of approval freed Britain to further develop more deadly riot-control agents, counterterrorism technologies, and counterinsurgency tactics — using Northern Ireland as a testing ground. Throughout the 1970s, tensions, between the military, police, loyalists, and Irish protesters escalated. CS gas became so commonplace that families lined their front doors with towels to stop it from seeping in. It was frequently fired at close range and into enclosed spaces. On one occasion police fired CS into a bus full of people. 54 Political prisoners were frequently gassed, with rights groups claiming that the stronger lachrymatory agent CR was sprayed during the Long Kesh riots in 1974, causing lesions and permanent scarring. In many ways the birthplace of modern notions of “nonlethal” weapons, Northern Ireland was also home to the first use of rubber-coated metal bullets. The year 1978 brought the use of plastic baton rounds (also called plastic bullets), which were made available to police and soldiers. During the 1981 political prisoners’ hunger strike 29,601 rounds were fired at demonstrators, resulting in seven deaths. Eight years later the official death toll from this “nonlethal” technology reached seventeen. 55 Now deployed around the world, different kinds of impact munitions, commonly referred to as rubber bullets, are frequently fired through clouds of tear gas.

The Himsworth Report continues to be used by governments around the world to justify the use of tear gas. In 1989 the US State Department invoked it to defend exporting $6.5 million worth of tear gas guns, grenades, launchers, and launching cartridges to Israel. This tear gas was thrown into Palestinian houses, clinics, schools, hospitals and mosques, often in residential areas, by IDF forces in the Occupied Territories. Human rights groups recorded up to forty deaths resulting from tear gas, as well as thousands of cases of illness. The State Department, facing criticism, cited the Himsworth finding that “the margin of safety in the use of CS gas is wide” and concluded that suspending tear gas shipments “would be inconsistent with US efforts to encourage the use of restraint by Israel and could work to the disadvantage of the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories.” 56

In 1993, the Himsworth Report surfaced again, making its way into hearings on the FBI and military siege of the Branch Davidian religious complex in Waco, Texas, which left dozens dead. Congressman Sonny Bono stared down his gold-rimmed glasses at Attorney General Janet Reno: “Your decision to approve of gassing the Davidians with the CS gas was based on Dr. Salem’s advice on the report prepared by the British research team?” “I believe it’s referred to as the Himsworth report,” Reno replied. 57 After hours of intensive scrutiny by the congressional committee. Reno, who had been a chemistry major at Cornell University, sanctioned the deployment of CS gas over a forty-eight-hour period in efforts to end a fifty-one-day standoff between the religious sect and law enforcement.

Strategists hoped the gas would cause leader David Koresh and his followers, who had twenty-two children among them, to exit the compound. But instead of clearing people out, the gas brought returned gunfire. The women and children barricaded themselves even deeper inside. Within hours, the entire structure went up in flames. Seventy-six people were later found dead inside. 58 The effects of CS gas on those who died at Waco were obscured by the flames; autopsy reports listed the cause of death in most cases as asphyxiation or falling debris. The ethical questions surrounding the FBI’s use of CS against protocol were briefly raised by media critics and members of the congressional committee, but in the end were largely eclipsed by the fire in the public memory.

Despite a long trail of reports of CS harms that came throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, it was Himsworth’s report that remained the technical trump card. Every major inquest or “independent enquiry” conducted in the decades to follow re-established its prominence through processes of expert testimony and citation. These official inquiries worked to maintain dominant structures of scientific knowledge production, affirming the central authority of military research centers and handpicked, government-approved scientific experts. In this system of scientific capital, researchers are encouraged to exchange stamps of safety for professional prestige. With government safety clearances in place, it was time to roll out tear gas in England.


1. Museum of Free Derry, “Battle of the Bogside,” n.d.

2. London Times, “Ulster Investigation Urged by Labour MPs,” April 26, 1967.

3. Freya McClements, “The Day that the Troubles Began,” BBC News, October 3, 2008.

4. Ann Devenney also flung herself over her father at one point during the attack and was kicked and forcefully pulled from him. She recalls watching the police beat her younger siblings, including a four-year-old and a ten-year-old. See her 1969 interview, Micky K (YouTube user), “Devenney Interview 69,” YouTube video, posted May 9, 2009,

5. Raymond McClean, The Road to Bloody Sunday (Dublin: Ward River Press, 1983).

6. Although an investigation was conducted at the time, the results of the Drury report were never shared with the Devenney family. It was not until a complaint was upheld in 2001 that responsibility for the death of Sammy Devenney at the hands of RUC police was formally and publicly acknowledged. Police ombudsman, “Police Ombudsman Releases Findings on Devenney,” press release, October 4, 2001, Publicationsuploads/devenny.pdf.

7. Deane-Drummond, Riot Control.

8. Russell Stetler, The Politics of Violence in Northern Ireland (London: Sheed and Ward, 1970).

9. Museum of Free Derry, “Battle of the Bogside.”

10. Tim Jones, “Police defend use of smoke,” London Times, August 14, 1969.

11. Harold Himsworth, “Diary of Visit to Northern Ireland,” PP/RHT/C1 Himsworth Collection, Wellcome Trust.

12. Ibid.

13. Battle of the Bogside, dir. Vince Cunningham, 2004.

14. Ibid.

15. Bogside Artist Collective, author interview, Derry, January 8, 2013.

16. Battle of the Bogside.

17. Bernadette Devlin, The Price of My Soul (New York: Pan Books, 1970), 203.

18. McClean, Road to Bloody Sunday; Interview with Bogside artists.

19. John Gray, “Obituary: Sir Harold Himsworth,” Independent, November 9, 1993.

20. New Scientist, “Profile: Sir Harold Himsworth: His Inspiration Was the Family Doctor,” October 30, 1958: 1161–2.

21. Himsworth, “Diary.”

22. Ibid.

23. Tim Jones, “Bogside tells inquiry team of gas effects,” London Times, September 3, 1969.

24. Battle of the Bogside.

25 McClean, Road to Bloody Sunday.

26. BBC News, “Porton Down—A Sinister Air?” August 20, 1999.

27. Ibid.

28. Keegan et al. “Exposures recorded for participants.”

29. Commons Hansard Debates, text for March 17, 1998. A formal enquiry began in 1999. Its outcome validated veterans’ claims to the nature of testing and the lies told to them by the government that garnered their participation. Out-of-court settlements saw some compensation and apologies provided to veterans’ families, but there have been no criminal convictions.

30. Tal Bolton, “Putting Consent in Context: Military Research Subjects in Chemical Warfare Tests at Porton Down, UK,” Journal of Policy History 23(1), 2011: 53–73.

31. Linsey McGoey, “The Logic of Strategic Ignorance,” British Journal of Sociology 63(3), 2012: 533–76.

32. Himsworth Committee, minutes of first meeting, October 4, 1969.

33. International Committee of the Red Cross, “Hungary: Practice Relating to Rule 74. Chemical Weapons,” n.d.,

34. United Nations, Chemical and Bacteriological (Biological) Weapons and the Effects of Their Possible Use (New York: Ballantine Books, 1970), xv.

35. John R. Walker, Britain and Disarmament: The UK and Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons Arms Control and Programmes, 1956–1975 (London: Ashgate Publishing, 2012), 35.

36. Ibid., 33.

37. Ibid., 33.

38. Himsworth Committee, minutes of third meeting, December 11, 1969.

39. Himsworth Committee, minutes of first meeting.

40. Parliament, Report of the Enquiry into Medical and Toxicological Aspects of CS (Her Majesty’s Stationary Office: London, 1971).

41. Ibid.

42. Personal correspondence, October 20, 1971, Wellcome Trust.

43. Ibid.

44. McClean, Road to Bloody Sunday.

45. Ibid.

46. Hilary Rose and Russell Stetler, “What Gas Did in Derry,” New Society, September 25, 1969.

47. Himsworth Committee, minutes of first meeting.

48. Parliament, Report of the Enquiry, 20.

49. Personal correspondence, Kahn to Himsworth, [1970 Wellcome Trust PP/HPH/C/6.

50 Parliament, Report of the Enquiry, 21.

51. Personal correspondence, Kahn to Himsworth, March 8, 1970 PP/HPH/C/6.

52. Parliament, Report of the Enquiry, 21.

53. Himsworth Committee, meeting minutes, March 23, 1971, Wellcome Trust.

54. On January 30, British violence against Irish demonstrators took a dark turn. During a peaceful civil rights march in Derry, the British military fired live finger-length bullets repeatedly into crowds of protesters. They killed fourteen men and boys — six of them only seventeen. The bullets were so powerful and had been shot at such close range that in some instances they cut straight through one person’s body and into another. The events of this day are infamous as “Bloody Sunday.” Further immortalized by Bono in U2’s 1983 hit song “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” January 30, 1972, became the best recorded and most remembered moment of the Irish civil rights struggle.

55. Colin Burrows, “Operationalizing Non-Lethality: A Northern Ireland Perspective,” in. The Future of Non-Lethal Weapons: Technologies, Operations, Ethics, and Law, edited by Nick Lewer (Hove, UK: Psychology Press, 2002).

56. Government Accountability Office, “Use of US-Manufactured Tear Gas in the Occupied Territories,” April 13, 1989, NSIAD-89-128.

57. House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight. Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs and Criminal Justice, “Waco Investigation Day 10 Part 3,” House Oversight Committee hearing, YouTube video, filmed August 1, 1995, posted January 1, 2011, v=OhjhRehknZA.

58. Frontline, “Waco: The Inside Story,” online repository, PBS, 1995–2014.


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1983 files declassified

By Gavin Cordon

July 3 2015

Margaret Thatcher’s government was reluctant to press for a ban on Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein acquiring chemical weapons for fear that the Russians would criticise the use of CS gas in Northern Ireland, according to newly released files.

Foreign Office papers released by the National Archives at Kew show that in early 1983 officials received intelligence from the Americans suggesting that mustard gas was being manufactured at a pesticide plant at Samarra to the north of Baghdad.

However, Mrs Thatcher’s (right) officials were concerned to learn that the Indian contractor that built the factory had acquired some of the equipment from a British company which was unaware of the Iraqis’ true intentions. While there was some discussion within the Foreign Office on trying to prevent Iraq acquiring a chemical weapons (CW) capability, officials noted that it could prove difficult as they were not banned under international treaties, even though their use was prohibited under the Geneva Protocols.

« The Iraqis could therefore legitimately say, as do the United States, that they need CW as a deterrent, » a Foreign Office paper noted.

« A move to ban CW sales to Iraq would therefore look very discriminatory unless we could show that Iraq had breached, or intended to breach the Geneva Protocol. »

But there was also, the paper acknowledged, another concern closer to home.

« Caution may be in order, since our own trade in CS gas has not escaped criticism. (The Russians claim that our use of CW in Northern Ireland contravened the Geneva Protocol), » the paper said.

« Another relevant factor is that a British company, Weir Pumps, has apparently supplied pumps to the Samarra factory under the impression that they were for use in making pesticides. »

Nevertheless, officials agreed there should be an approach to « our closest allies » with a view to trying « at least to slow down, and perhaps even to frustrate Iraqi ambitions in this field ».

Belfast Telegraph


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By Glenn FrankelMay 31, 1988

JABALIYA, GAZA STRIP — It was a typical week in this densely populated refugee camp. There were Israeli soldiers and Arab stone throwers playing cat-and-mouse games through the winding, garbage-strewn alleyways. There were rubber bullets and fiberglass billy clubs on one side and slingshots, bottles and concrete blocks on the other. And, as always, there was tear gas.

For two days, Ikkram Said, a slender, 27-year-old woman who was four months pregnant, said she could smell fumes wafting into her courtyard from outside. Even with the windows closed, she said, her eyes stung, she coughed constantly and had trouble breathing. Then one day she noticed blood when she went to the toilet and became frightened.

She had a friend drive her to the camp’s United Nations health clinic and was advised to go to Shifa Hospital in nearby Gaza City. By the time she got there she had stomach cramps and uterine contractions. Soon after, she miscarried.

Said’s story represents another question mark in one of the most troubling, elusive and emotive issues to arise during the 23-week Arab uprising: the effects on the Palestinian population of the Israeli Army’s frequent use of tear gas as a nonlethal riot-control weapon.

Palestinian doctors and officials working for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that operates the refugee camps contend there have been more than 1,200 injuries, dozens of miscarriages and at least 11 deaths from tear gas since the uprising began Dec. 9. The Washington-based Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has put deaths at 41 and used that figure in a successful lobbying campaign that last month led the American manufacturer of the gas to suspend sales to Israel.

While they concede they lack hard data and autopsy results to verify many of their claims, these sources contend the weight of circumstantial evidence clearly indicates that tear gas is at least a significant contributing factor in deaths and miscarriages among a refugee camp population that, even in the best of times, is in a precarious state of health.

« There is until now no solid scientific proof, but certainly the accumulated evidence is strongly incriminating, » said Dr. Samir Badri, a Palestinian who is UNRWA’s chief health officer in the Gaza Strip.

« When you see a woman with no previous history of miscarriages or bleeding, and after exposure to tear gas she bleeds and aborts, you can say safely it is the gas. »

Israeli officials contend the Palestinian claims are based on false or unsubstantiated information and are designed to fuel a propaganda crusade that portrays Israel as waging a form of chemical warfare against a hapless civilian population.

« We have not seen any cases where it could be proven by a coroner that anybody has been killed due to exposure to tear gas, » said Brig. Gen. Yehuda Danon, the Israeli Army’s surgeon general, in a telephone interview, « and we have no scientific evidence that there have been more miscarriages following the use of {tear gas}. »

Medical experts say the issue is further complicated by the fact that accurate statistics and unbiased accounts are largely unobtainable in the chaos of civil unrest and military crackdown that has reigned in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip since December.

But within the cross fire of charges and countercharges, interviews with Palestinian, Israeli and American doctors who have first-hand experience with tear gas, a reexamination of several cases, and eyewitness accounts during recent months all point to these facts about the use of tear gas during the uprising:There is no credible evidence to support Palestinian claims that the Israelis are using any gas or toxic chemicals other than the standard chlorobenzylidene malononitrile, known as « CS, » manufactured by Federal Laboratories Inc. of Saltzburg, Pa. When properly used outdoors, the gas has limited effects that generally wear off in 15 to 30 minutes.There is, however, much evidence indicating that on numerous occasions soldiers and police have violated the manufacturer’s printed warnings by firing the gas into enclosed areas such as rooms or small courtyards. Most experts agree that such misuse of the gas can be harmful, especially to small children, the elderly, pregnant women and people suffering from heart or lung problems.There is debate over the possible long-term health effects of tear gas and growing concern among human-rights groups and some medical experts about its widespread use in countries including Israel, South Korea and Panama.Health conditions in the squalid, overcrowded refugee camps of Gaza have deteriorated dramatically in recent months due to disruptions of medical services and child feeding programs caused both by Palestinian violence and Israeli military restrictions. As a result, the population is more vulnerable to many kinds of health hazards, one of which is exposure to tear gas.

Upon close examination, some of the U.N. and Palestinian claims appear groundless. After a visit to Gaza last month, UNRWA health director John Hiddlestone told a press conference in Vienna about an incident in which two young Palestinians were beaten by soldiers and confined in a room where a reddish aerosal spray was used. « The room was then shut and after an hour or so two dead bodies were removed, » said Hiddlestone, who said soldiers apparently had used « some very toxic nerve gas. »

Hiddlestone was talking about the death of Basel Yazuri, age 18, who was killed Jan. 8 in the Rafah refugee camp, according to UNRWA officials. But Jerusalem Post reporter Bradley Burston, who visited Yazuri’s house shortly after the incident, said that besides the red powder on the walls and furniture of the room, which apparently came from an Army smoke grenade, there were also multiple bullet holes indicating someone had sprayed the room with an automatic rifle.

UNRWA’s own report on the incident states Yazuri died from bullet wounds and that there was no second fatality. The Army contends Yazuri was shot dead while attacking a soldier with a knife. Arab witnesses at the scene claimed he was badly beaten before being shot, and the question of whether Yazuri’s death was justifiable homicide remains open. But no one except Hiddlestone says he was gassed.

In camps such as Jabaliya, tear gas has become part of everyday life as well as a key element in the mythology of the Palestinian uprising. Children turn the spent metal canisters into toys or wear them proudly as necklaces. Dozens of canisters are hung defiantly from utility lines throughout the camp. Almost every house, it seems, boasts a collection of one or more of the thin tin projectiles or grenade-style rubber containers.

There are no figures available on how much tear gas Israeli troops have used since December, but the use is widespread. Soldiers have fired gas canisters from rifles, hurled grenades by hand and dumped 30-inch-long cans from helicopters. Despite printed warnings on the canisters that the gas is « for outdoor use only » and « may cause severe injury if not used in accordance with this warning, » soldiers pursuing alleged rioters have fired tear gas into houses, stores, clinics and even, on occasion, into hospitals.

Even now, at a time when the frequency of violent incidents and fatalities appears to be dropping, Christine Dabbagh, UNRWA’s information officer in Gaza, says she gets daily reports of injuries including tear-gassing from Jabaliya and other camps. On May 21, for example, UNRWA’s Jabaliya clinic reported treating 11 people for gas, including Said, who later miscarried at Shifa Hospital. The following day the report listed six tear-gas victims, two of whom later miscarried.

Altogther, doctors at Shifa Hospital, which serves most of the northern half of the Gaza Strip, say they treated 378 miscarriage cases between December 1987 and February 1988, the first three months of the uprising, compared to 335 during the same period a year earlier. UNRWA health director Badri says he tried to compile statistics to do a similar comparison at the Rafah refugee camp, but the numbers showed no significant increase.

The causes of miscarriages remain elusive because even in normal times, the estimated rate of miscarriages runs as high as 20 percent. Ikkram Said, for example, had a miscarriage and then bore three children before her latest pregnancy. It is impossible to know in retrospect exactly why she aborted this time. Besides her physical symptoms, doctors say her sense of fear after being exposed to tear gas could have been a factor.

Similarly, the death of a three-year-old girl in Gaza City last Friday remains uncertain. Local residents attributed it to tear gas. But the Army said the girl had not shown symptoms of tear gas inhalation when treated at a local hospital and said her body was spirited away by family members before an autopsy could be performed.

Dr. Issa Satti, director and chief surgeon at Ramallah Hospital in the West Bank, recalled last Feb. 20, when soldiers fired two CS gas canisters into the maternity recovery ward. There were five women and four babies in the ward at the time who were quickly evacuated, Satti said, after which he tried to enter the room to remove the canisters.

« I thought I would just throw them out the window, but I could hardly get into the room, » Satti recalled. « It was so concentrated. I started to cough, and then I couldn’t breathe. Even 24 hours later you couldn’t enter the room. »

Satti, who is one of the West Bank’s best known and most respected physicians, said he has concluded after months of watching soldiers use tear gas in Ramallah that « when used properly outdoors, I think it’s harmless. But we’ve had people who have had gas fired into their homes. Someone kept inside long enough could certainly die. »

An Army spokeswoman said soldiers were instructed to use tear gas only in open areas and that other uses of the gas were in violation of orders. She noted that the Army had taken pains to choose a form of tear gas that would not prove harmful to its own soldiers because sudden wind changes often expose them to its effects.

Brig. Gen. Danon said the Army had relied upon two reports in 1969 and 1971 by the Himsworth Royal Commission into the medical and toxicological effects of tear-gas use in Northern Ireland. Both reports indicated that CS gas was the safest and least toxic and had the least long-term health effects, said Danon.

The Army surgeon general conceded that health conditions in Gaza are poor but said many factors associated with the uprising were to blame. The United Nations’ supplemental feeding clinics for pregnant women and children have functioned only sporadically due to civil violence and to military curfews. Sewage systems and running water have broken down in many places and have not been repaired. Garbage collection is sporadic at best.

« All of these are far more important in terms of their effect on the health of the population than the occasional use of riot-control agents such as tear gas, » he said.

But Dr. Jonathan E. Fine, an internist who is executive director of Physicians for Human Rights, a Boston-based rights group, contended that the Himsworth reports had drastically underestimated the harmful effects of CS gas.

« There’s a tremendous under-appreciation of the dangers of tear gas, » said Fine in a telephone interview. « In my opinion it’s a misnomer to call this stuff ‘tear gas.’ It’s really poison gas . . . . « 

A team of four American physicians from Fine’s group who visited the West Bank and Gaza in February said in their report that they could not substantiate claims of an increase in the incidence of miscarriages due to tear gas. Even so, Fine warned, Israel should not take the safety of tear gas for granted.

« I have to question both the logic and the morality of what the Army surgeon general is saying, » said Fine. « It’s a double standard he’s applying here. Would Israel use the same gas on its own children? I don’t believe so. »