Amnesty International Calls for Restrictions on Taser Use by U.S. Border Police Following Death of Mexican Migrant

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Wende Gozan, 212-633-4247, wgozan@aiusa.org

Amnesty International Calls for Restrictions on Taser Use by U.S. Border Police Following Death of Mexican Migrant

LONDON - Amnesty International is calling
for a review of the U.S. border patrol's policy on use of electro-shock
weapons following the death of Mexican national Anastasio Hernandez
earlier
this week.  

According to police sources, Anastasio
Hernandez
was detained on May 28 after reentering the U.S. illegally. He had
reportedly
been deported two months earlier. Customs and Border Patrol police
reportedly
hit him with a baton and used a Taser on him when he became "combative"
as they tried to deport him to Mexico at the San Ysidro border crossing
in California. He reportedly stopped breathing shortly after being
tasered
and was pronounced brain dead at the hospital some 21 hours later; he
was
removed from a life support machine on Monday.

The San Diego medical examiner announced
on Wednesday that he died of a heart attack, with signs of
methamphetamine
abuse and high blood pressure contributing factors; the manner of death
was ruled a homicide.  The amount of methamphetamine in his system
was not reported.

While Amnesty International does not
have
full details of the incident, which remains under investigation by the
US authorities, the organization is concerned by allegations that police
resorted to unnecessary levels of force.  

Amnesty International has serious
concerns
about the safety of electro-shock weapons such as Tasers, and considers
them to be potentially lethal as well as subject to abuse.  The
organization
is calling for such weapons to be strictly regulated and used only in
situations
where they are necessary to protect life and avoid the use of firearms.

Since 2001, more than 400 people have
died in the U.S. after being shocked with police Tasers.
Although
coroners
have attributed most deaths to other causes, the Taser has been cited as
a cause or contributing factor in more than 50 deaths. In many of these
cases - like that of Anastasio Hernandez -- the deceased stopped
breathing
shortly after being shocked.  There are other cases where the cause
of death remains unclear.

Although some studies have found the
risk
of injury from Tasers and similar weapons to be generally low in healthy
adults, there is concern that some individuals may be particularly
vulnerable
to adverse reactions from the shocks, for example, people suffering from
underlying heart problems or being of small build. Some medical
professionals
are also concerned that the electro-shocks may contribute to cardiac or
respiratory problems in people already compromised by police struggle,
stress or drug abuse.

Amnesty International is calling for a
full,
impartial investigation of the facts in this case, with the results -
including the autopsy findings - made public as soon as possible.  The
organization is also calling for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection
agency to either suspend using Tasers or limit their use to situations
where officers are faced with an immediate threat of death or serious
injury
that cannot be contained through lesser means.    

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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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