Amnesty International: Blunt Force – Investigating the misuse of police batons and related equipment

Amnesty International: Blunt Force – Investigating the misuse of police batons and related equipment

Time and again, law enforcement officials are too quick to resort to the use of force, often against peaceful protesters exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly.

In recent years and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, states have restricted the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, often violently. Civic space is shrinking. Among the most frequently used and misused weapons in this context are police batons in different forms and sizes.

Amnesty International has investigated the misuse of batons and other striking weapons, analysing illustrative incidents spanning the past decade from around the world. Examining hundreds of photos and videos, researchers have verified 188 incidents of the misuse of striking weapons including police batons, lathis (long sticks), sjamboks (rigid whips) and improvised weapons in 35 countries, covering all regions of the globe. These include examples from violent crackdowns of mass protests in countries as diverse as Belarus, Colombia, France, India and Myanmar.

Batons have been used to inflict beatings as a means of punishment, beat people who are already restrained, deliver unjustified dangerous head and neck strikes, and choke people in neck holds. Single baton blows have been delivered with such force that the victims have collapsed to the ground. Incidents documented also include batons being used to commit sexual violence.

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