The human rights organization Amnesty International reported that police have killed dozens of people and maimed thousands in more than 30 countries by misusing rubber bullets and other non-lethal weapons.
AI said in a report published on Tuesday that a new torture-free trade agreement is needed to regulate trade in police equipment, including rubber-coated metal bullets, and to protect the right to protest.
Police misuse of such weapons causes death as well “alarming increase in eye injuries”the AI report notes, according to Al Jazeera.
These injuries include a ruptured eyeball, retinal detachment and complete loss of vision, as well as bone and skull fractures, brain and internal organ damage and internal bleeding, heart and lung damage from broken ribs, genital injuries and psychological trauma.
In Chile, the National Institute for Human Rights found that police caused more than 440 eye injuries during anti-government protests in 2019, and more than 30 people lost their sight. Among them was 22-year-old Gustavo Gatica – a 22-year-old psychology student blinded in both eyes after a police officer shot him in the face with a rubber-coated bullet on November 8, 2019.
From Chile to the USA, Gaza, Iran
AI warns that the use of such bullets to suppress peaceful protests has become increasingly common in the United States as well.
One of the protesters in Minneapolis who was hit in the face by a bullet in late May 2020 said that he “eye exploded”and his nose moved under one of his eyes.
In Palestine, Israeli forces routinely use rubber-coated metal bullets against Palestinians, even though Israel’s Supreme Court recommended as early as 2000 that these weapons are lethal and should not be used to suppress protests.
The UN Human Rights Council found in a recent report that 438 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces using rubber-coated bullets during protests in Gaza known as the Great March of Return.
AI also found in Iran “widespread illegal” the use of similar bullets against protesters, as a result of which several people died, thousands were injured.
Among the countries and areas where police fire tear gas grenades directly at protesters, AI singled out Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Gaza and Israeli forces, Guinea, Hong Kong, Iran, Iraq, Peru, Sudan, Tunisia and Venezuela.
Despite the serious risks involved in the use of rubber-coated bullets and other non-lethal weapons, there are currently no international regulations on the production and trade of this equipment.