Saturday, November 24, 2007

UN Labels Taser Use a Form of Torture

In a follow-up on an article I wrote last September on the notorious tasering of a speaker at a John Kerry forum by University of Florida police, there's this from the UK Daily Telegraph today:

TASER electronic stun guns are a form of torture that can kill, a UN committee has declared after several recent deaths in North America.

"The use of these weapons causes acute pain, constituting a form of torture,'' the UN's Committee against Torture said.

"In certain cases, they can even cause death, as has been shown by reliable studies and recent real-life events,'' the committee of 10 experts said....

The UN committee made its comments in recommendations to Portugal, which has bought the newest Taser X26 stun gun for use by police.

Portugal "should consider giving up the use of the Taser X26,'' as its use can have a grave physical and mental impact on those targeted, which violates the UN's Convention against Torture, the experts said.

Here is the relevant section from the UN Convention Against Torture press release on November 23, from one of two sessions the UNCAT holds each year:

The Committee regretted that Portugal used detention for identification purposes, that could sometime lead to collective arrests. The Committee was also worried by information it had received on the persistent violence between prisoners in places of detentions, including sexual violence, and by the high number of deaths in places of detention, due in great part to HIV/AIDS and suicide. The Committee was worried that the use of TaserX26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constituted a form of torture, and that in certain cases it could also cause death, as shown by several reliable studies and by certain cases that had happened after practical use.

I could not find the section in the UN document where experts recommend giving up tasers, but will rely for now on DT reporting (echoed in other periodicals).

Bravo to the UN experts for noticing that this grave form of electric shock to disable police targets is both dangerous and extremely painful. The bar has been lowered so far for police departments around the world, that routine use of chokeholds, tasering, firing rubber bullets, and other forms of so-called "non-lethal" forms of force has become epidemic around the world. This decision helps in the fight against the worst forms of misuse of force by state powers.

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