For Immediate Release
Use of Force Against RNC Protesters 'Disproportionate,'
Charges Amnesty International
LONDON - Amnesty International is concerned
by allegations of excessive use of force and mass arrests by police at
demonstrations in St. Paul, Minnesota during the Republican National Convention
(RNC) from September 1-4, 2008. The human rights organization is calling
on the city and county authorities to ensure that all allegations of ill-treatment
and other abuses are impartially investigated, with a review of police
tactics and weapons in the policing of demonstrations.
The organization's concerns arise from
media reports, video and photographic images which appear to show police
officers deploying unnecessary and disproportionate use of non-lethal weapons
on non-violent protestors marching through the streets or congregating
outside the arena where the Convention was being held.
Police are reported to have fired rubber
bullets and used batons, pepper spray, tear gas canisters and concussion
grenades on peaceful demonstrators and journalists. Amnesty International
has also received unconfirmed reports that some of those arrested during
the demonstrations may have been ill-treated while held at Ramsey county
Amnesty International is also concerned
at reports that several journalists who were covering the RNC were arbitrarily
arrested while filming and reporting on the demonstrations. They include
host of independent news program Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman, and
two of the program's producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar,
who were both allegedly subjected to violence during their arrest. A photographer
for the Associated Press (AP) and other journalists were also arrested
while covering the demonstrations.
Kouddous described his arrest to media,
"...two or three police officers tackled me. They threw me violently against
a wall. Then they threw me to the ground. I was kicked in the chest several
times. A police officer ground his knee into my back...I was also, the entire
time, telling them, ‘I'm media. I'm press....,' but...that didn't seem
to matter at all."
Amnesty International urges that an inquiry
be carried out promptly, that its findings and recommendations be made
public in a timely manner. If the force used is found to have been
excessive and to have contravened the principles of necessity and proportionality,
then those involved should be disciplined, measures put in place and training
given to ensure future policing operations conform to international standards.
Amnesty International recognizes the challenges
involved in policing large scale demonstrations and that some protestors
may have been involved in acts of violence or obstruction. However,
some of the police actions appear to have breached United Nations (U.N.)
standards on the use of force by law enforcement officials. These
stipulate, among other things, that force should be used only as a last
resort, in proportion to the threat posed, and should be designed to minimize
damage or injury. Some of the treatment also appears to have contravened
U.S. laws and guidelines on the use of force. The U.N. standards also stress
that everyone is allowed to participate in lawful and peaceful assemblies,
in accordance with the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights.
For more information, please contact the
AIUSA media office at 202-544-0200 x302 or visit our website at www.amnestyusa.org.
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