Police worldwide are increasing the use of rubber bullets and tear gas, Amnesty International warns

Police fire tear gas at protesters in Venezuela, as Amnesty International warns about the increasing use of rubber bullets and other 'less lethal' weaponry by security forces
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Amnesty International warned that police use of rubber bullets and other projectiles against peaceful protesters has become increasingly routine worldwide. Its report My Eye Exploded, published on 14 March, said the bullets are leading to eye injuries and even death. As a result, the group called for better global regulation of the trade and use of such policing equipment.

Rubber bullets destroy bodies

The report, co-written with the UK-based Omega Research Foundation, said:

Thousands of protesters and bystanders have been maimed and dozens killed by the often reckless and disproportionate use of less lethal law enforcement weaponry

These included rubber bullets, rubberised buckshot, and tear gas grenades. Police in South and Central America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the United States have fired such weaponry directly at demonstrators. In Chile alone, the police’s response to protests from October 2019 caused more than 30 cases of eye loss, according to the country’s National Institute for Human Rights.

Demonstrators in other countries surveyed also spoke of other serious injuries. They included bone and skull fractures, brain injuries, the rupture of internal organs, or punctured hearts and lungs from broken ribs.

Amnesty International said:

There has been an alarming increase in eye injuries, including eyeball ruptures, retinal detachments and the complete loss of sight

Read on...

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‘Less lethal’ weaponry?

Demonstrators have also been killed, the report found. Amnesty International said that security forces in Iraq deliberately fired specialist grenades at protesters. The grenades, ten-times heavier than typical tear gas munitions, caused at least two dozen deaths in 2019. Meanwhile, campaign group Stop Balas de Goma said the use of tennis-ball-sized rubber bullets in Spain has led to at least one death from head trauma.

The human rights group’s researcher on military, security, and policing issues, Patrick Wilcken, said:

Legally-binding global controls on the manufacture and trade in less lethal weapons… along with effective guidelines on the use of force are urgently needed to combat an escalating cycle of abuses.

As a result of the findings, Amnesty International and Omega Research Foundation called for countries to act against such weaponry. This included a demand to prohibit the “manufacture, trade and use” of projectile launchers, and a prohibition on their use for “generalised crowd control”.

Featured image via Andrés E. Azpúrua/Wikimedia Commons, resized to 770*403

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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