The complaint filed by Bahrain Watch and ADHRB concerned an impending large shipment of tear gas to the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain. According to the complainants, the shipment raises grave concerns about potential complicity of Dae Kwang in human rights violations because several recent reports state that the Bahrain Government has systematically deployed tear gas against civilian populations in an excessive and inappropriate manner.
The complainants argue that use of tear gas by the Bahrain Government has resulted in ongoing multiple violations of internationally recognised human rights, including the right to life; the right to be free from torture and other inhuman, degrading or cruel treatment or punishment; and the right to freedom of expression and assembly.
The complaint alleges that Dae Kwang has been a significant supplier of tear gas to Bahrain since 2011 and that previous exports are likely to have been used in human rights violations and suppressing pro-democracy protests. The complainants have requested that Dae Kwang refrain from supplying tear gas to Bahrain in order to avoid causing or contributing to future human rights violations.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
The complainants only received one communication on 31 December 2013, when the NCP forwarded Dae Kwangs response. They replied on 9 January 2014, but received no further response.
The NCPs initial assessment rejecting the case was received on 22 May 2014. The NCP argued that Dae Kwang is not a multinational enterprise so the Guidelines do not apply. The NCP did not give the complainants an opportunity to comment on a draft initial assessment.
The complainants view the NCPs logic in rejecting the complaint as seriously flawed, and a misrepresentation of the text of the Guidelines. The NCPs statement claims that “The OECD Guidelines require that multinational enterprises should be companies existing in multiple countries that are mutually connected through ownership or stakes in the company.” But saying that the Guidelines “require” this to be the case is a misrepresentation. What the Guidelines actually say is that MNEs are “usually” companies in multiple countries that “usually” implies that other constructions are possible. In fact, the text of the Guidelines specifically emphasizes that no fixed definition of multinational enterprise is required for the purposes of the Guidelines. Thus, the Korean NCPs insistence that a strict definition of MNE be met is erroneous. In the end, no matter what the interpretation, the fact is that if the Korean NCP were genuinely committed to the effective implementation of the OECD Guidelines, it could have at least accepted the complaint and try to get the parties together to seek a solution rather than rejecting the case outright at the initial assessment phase
Although the complaint was rejected, the NCP did conclude that the government security forces and police officers had not used the tear gas in a proper manner, resulting in deaths and serious injuries of civilians. The NCP further considered that the complainants provided sufficient evidence human rights abuses have been conducted systematically and in a targeted manner using products either manufactured by the Dae Kwang or similar to those manufactured by the company.
In January 2014 the Financial Times reported that the government of South Korea has suspended tear gas exports to Bahrain because of the countrys unstable political situation, peoples deaths due to tear gas and complaints from human rights groups.