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The health consequences of crowd-control weapons

Two new reports outline how the increasingly indiscriminate use of weapons such as rubber bullets, tear gas, and batons on protestors is harming health and human rights.

Article published in The Lancet, World Report| Volume 401, ISSUE 10381, P987-988, March 25, 2023. By Talha Burki.

Two new reports have outlined the growing use of so-called crowd-control weapons by police forces around the world. My Eye Exploded, by Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation, focuses on kinetic impact projectiles (KIPs), commonly called rubber bullets. Lethal in Disguise 2, a follow-up to a 2016 report by the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations and Physicians for Human Rights, examines a broader range of weaponry, including chemical irritants (often described as tear gas or pepper spray); disorientation devices, which also go by the names stun grenades and flash bangs; acoustic weapons; water cannons; and batons.

It concludes that the use of such weapons by government security services on protestors results in “severe consequences to the physical health of both those targeted and bystanders not targeted, on the mental health of everyone involved, and on the enjoyment and safe exercise of fundamental civil and political rights”. Together, the reports paint a disturbing picture of how the use of dangerous and frequently indiscriminate weapons against civilians has serious and sometimes fatal consequences.

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