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Excessive Use of Force by US Police

After an anti-war demonstration in Port of Oakland, California, on April 7th 2003, at least 21 people were injured. Police fired non-lethal weapons, including bean bags, wooden bullets and sting ball grenades at demonstrators, causing injuries to at least twelve protesters, and nine by-standers who were not involved in the demonstration. There is concern an inappropriate response was adopted when police opened fire within 30 seconds of ordering demonstrators to disperse and fired projectiles directly at demonstrators within close range, including wooden bullets.

Evidence has shown that the weapons used can cause serious internal injuries, break bones, inflict blindness, and are potentially lethal. A full inquiry is needed to confirm whether any of these weapons were misused and steps should also be taken to ensure that police do not subject further protesters to such treatment.
If the allegations are true, the actions taken by police would clearly be incompatible with international standards requiring that law enforcement officials should use force only as a last resort, in proportion to the threat posed, and in a way to minimize damage or injury. All law enforcement agencies across the USA must introduce strict limitations on use of crowd control weapons with clear monitoring procedures.

The Proyecto Varela is a petition for referendum on legal reform for greater personal, political and economic freedoms, as well as amnesty for political prisoners. In March 2002, project organizers reported having collected the 10,000 signatures constitutionally required to hold a referendum. This effort is led by Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, of the Movimiento Cristiano Liberación, (Christian Liberation Movement). Activists for the Proyecto Varela have been subjected to threats, short-term detention, summons, confiscation of materials and other forms of harassment by State Security agents. However, Oswaldo Payá has not been detained or harassed in connection with his activities.

In order to rectify the brutal actions of the authorities, the Cuban government must immediate release information regarding the detention of all concerned, the charges against them and the legal grounds on which they will be tried. These detainees may be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.

AI INDEX: AMR 51/056/2003 15 April 2003

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