France’s highest administrative court recently decided to allow police to continue using rubber bullets to disperse crowds, even amidst hundreds of incidents of such weapons causing serious injuries, including blindness. Physicians for Human Rights opposes the misuse of rubber bullets, also known as kinetic impact projectiles, and other weapons, such as tear gas, that can have serious health impacts.
PHR calls on national and local governments to ensure members of law enforcement only use such weapons when strictly unavoidable and in a manner that minimizes injury, as required by international human rights law. PHR calls on the French government to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association to monitor and assess French law enforcement’s management of and response to current protests.
Physicians for Human Rights Medical Expert Dr. Rohini Haar said the following in response to the French court decision:
“Rubber bullets are a blatant violation of the UN’s Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials,which ‘prohibit the use of those firearms and ammunition that cause unwarranted injury or present an unwarranted risk.’ As an emergency physician, I have seen the severe damage such weapons cause, including limb mutilation, broken bones, blindness, and even death. Law enforcement must exercise every effort to avoid practices that cause further harm and violence, and authorities have an obligation to ensure that assistance and medical aid are provided to any injured person as soon as possible.”
PHR has developed a fact sheet on kinetic impact projectiles that explains how such devices work, their health effects, legality of use, and policy recommendations.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.