Report Shows Health Risks of Tear Gas, Rubber Bullets, Other “Nonlethal” Weapons Used by Police

March 9, 2016 5:00 pm

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GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union, and Physicians for Human Rights today released Lethal in Disguise: The Health Consequences of Crowd-Control Weapons, a report documenting the health effects of tear gas, rubber bullets, flashbang grenades, and other so-called “nonlethal” weapons used by police on crowds. Lethal in Disguise links medical literature and data on the weapons’ dangers with case studies highlighting their human toll.

“By pointing out the substantial health risks associated with several of the so-called ‘nonlethal’ weapons, this report should pave the way for much-needed reforms in law enforcement’s dependence on these weapons to control protests and other mass gatherings,” said Jamil Dakwar, the director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program. “The potential for injury and death exists whenever police use these weapons, whether in an encounter with one individual or a crowd. The report’s vital recommendations should apply to these weapons no matter how many people are the targets.”

Lethal in Disguise documents cases of death, disability, and serious injury that occur when weapons like flash-bangs and tear gas are used inappropriately and indiscriminately. In addition to summarizing a critical mass of medical literature on the effects of these weapons, it includes case studies from Argentina, Canada, Egypt, England, Hungary, Israel, Kenya, South Africa, and the United States.

The report was launched at the United Nations in Geneva on the occasion of the presentation of a joint report on the proper management of assemblies, prepared by the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns. The Special Rapporteurs’ report was presented to the 31st session of the Human Rights Council.

The International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations is a network of independent, national human rights organizations working to promote fundamental rights and freedoms. In addition to the ACLU, the network’s member organizations that participated in the report are: the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales in Argentina, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Law Network in India, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, and the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa.

Lethal in Disguise is available here:

For more information about the ACLU’s Human Rights Program, visit:

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