Lethal in Disguise: The Health Consequences of Crowd-Control Weapons (2016)
“Even in the context of protests where there are people who either engage in or incite others to engage in acts of violence and which require police intervention, the explicit goal of intervention should be to de-escalate the situation.”
In recent years, there has been a rise in the number of popular protests in which people have taken to the streets to express grievances and claim their rights. In many cases, police and security forces have responded in ways that profoundly undermine the fundamental rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, often leading to escalations in violence through unwarranted, inappropriate, or disproportionate uses of force. Law enforcement throughout the world is increasingly responding to popular protests with crowd-control weapons (CCWs). The proliferation of CCWs without adequate regulation, training, monitoring, and/or accountability, has led to the widespread and routine use or misuse of these weapons, resulting in injury, disability, and death.
There is a significant gap in knowledge about the health effects of CCWs and an absence of meaningful international standards or guidelines around their use. As a result, the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) partnered to document the health consequences of CCWs and examine their roles and limitations in protest contexts and make recommendations about their safe use.
“This report has shown that these weapons can often result in significant injuries, disability, and even death. As a result, there is a pressing need to engage in further ethical research and empirical studies to develop clear scientific standards and parameters for the use of CCWs.”
Overview of the Report
» About PHR | » About INCLO | » Executive Summary | » Acknowledgements | » Download the Report (4MB)
» 1.0. Introduction
» 2.0. Background
» 3.0. Crowd-Control Weapons and their Impact on Health (use the below content slider)
Kinetic Impact Protectiles
Kinetic impact projectiles (KIPs), often called rubber or plastic bullets, are regularly used in crowd-control settings around the world. These weapons were developed in an effort to allow security and law enforcement personnel to keep physical distance between them and the individual or group they were trying to control.
Chemical irritants, conventionally referred to as “tear gas”, are a group of CCWs that include a variety of chemical compounds intended to produce sensory irritation.
Typically referred to as water cannons, various types of water hoses either connected to in-ground water supplies or mobile bladders (often on trucks) have been used since the early 1700s, initially for fighting fires and later also for dispersing crowds or limiting access to certain areas.
Disorientation or concussion devices, also known as flash-bangs or stun grenades, are weapons that function by creating a loud explosion and/or a very bright flash of light.
Acoustic or sonic weapons (also known as long-range acoustic devices, sound cannons, acoustic weapons, sonic bullets, and noise bazookas) are devices that deliver very loud sound over long distances.
Directed Energy Weapons
Known as the “active denial system” (ADS), these are electromagnetic heating devices that deliver very high-frequency milliliter wavelength electromagnetic rays that heat skin on contact and cause a painful, burning sensation.
» 4.0. Conclusion and Recommendations (use the below content slider)
Pre-deployment of CCWs
Includes recommendations on design and trade, procurement and selection, testing, regulations, training and planning, and specific recommendations on chemical irritants and water cannons.
Deployment and use of CCWs
Includes recommendations on kinetic impact projectiles, chemical irritants, water cannons, disorientation devices, acoustic weapons, and directed energy devices.
Recommendations for post-deployment and accountability
Includes recommendations on medical assistance and accountability.
For further information on specific crowd-control weapons you can view the Omega Research Foundation’s Visual Glossary here.
Directed Energy Projectiles
Kinetic Impact Projectiles (KIPs)
INCLO’s Andrew Songa (left, KHRC) and Karim Ennarah (right, EIPR), with Commissioner Med S. Kaggwa at ACHPR58, Banjul.