Despite a pledge to stop abuses by its security forces, the ruling Sunni minority in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain is engaged in systematic and disproportionate use of tear gas on its restive Shiite majority, permitting police officers to routinely fire volleys at point-blank range at crowds and into homes and vehicles in Shiite neighborhoods, a leading rights group said in a report released on Wednesday.

Hasan Jamali/Associated Press

A Bahraini protester hit by a tear gas canister on Sunday was treated by underground doctors and nurses in a house after clashes with the police.

The group, the Physicians for Human Rights, which has been highly critical of the Bahraini monarchy’s behavior since the Shiite protests inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings began there 18 months ago, called the policy on tear gas use unprecedented in the world, even among dictatorships where tear gas is a staple tool for crowd control.

Its report, based on dozens of interviews of victims in Bahrain and forensic evidence gathered there by the group’s investigators in April, said the Shiite populace’s abnormally prolonged exposure to the tear gas’s toxic components had already led to an alarming increase in miscarriages, respiratory ailments and other maladies.

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Courtesy of http://www.nytimes.com