New investigation: Exposing global misuse of police batons
Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation today called on governments to support a UN-led process to regulate the trade in law enforcement equipment, highlighting how ubiquitous weapons like police batons are routinely misused in ways which can constitute torture and other ill-treatment.
In a new investigation, Blunt Force, the organizations catalogued 188 incidents where law enforcement officials have misused striking weapons such as batons, which are currently traded with little to no regulation. The investigation draws on open-source photo and video evidence from 35 countries, and includes examples from violent crackdowns on protests in Belarus, Colombia, France, India and Myanmar. Videos show law enforcement officials using batons and similar weapons like lathis and sjamboks to inflict punishment, beat people who are already restrained, deliver unjustified dangerous blows to the head, or choke people in neck holds.
As a UN process to create an international regulatory framework moves ahead, Amnesty and Omega are calling for tighter controls on the trade in “less lethal” law enforcement weapons, as well as an outright ban on certain types of inherently abusive equipment used for torture or the death penalty.
“Batons can cause serious injury and even death when used improperly. Yet the trade in law enforcement equipment like this continues to benefit from a shocking absence of regulation. Governments should be obliged to conduct rigorous risk assessments before allowing this equipment to be exported,” said Verity Coyle, Advisor on Military, Security and Policing at Amnesty International.
“States should also ensure that law enforcement agencies are trained and instructed in human rights compliant policing, including in the context of public assemblies, where many of the violations we documented took place. There are international standards governing how police can use force, but our investigation shows these being flouted all over the world - with profoundly dangerous consequences.”