Fourteen members of the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO)
express deep concern over the escalation in police responses to protests in the USA over
the past week. The protests erupted in response to the killing of George Floydby police
officers in Minneapolis on Monday. INCLOcondemns the disproportionate use of force
against protesters and calls on police to act in accordance with international standards on
the use of force and the management of assemblies.
News media reportsindicate that rubber bullets, tear gas and in some cases live ammunition
have been used by police officers against protesters, in violation of the basic human rights to
protest and freedom of expression. INCLO notes with particular concern the endorsement of
the use of violence by President Trumpon social media. INCLO supports the ACLU’s callto
the National Guard and police in Minneapolis and elsewhere to comply with the law and not
President Trump’s sentiments on social media.
News media reports that seven people were struck by gunfire at a protest in Louisiana. In
Ohio, pepper spraywas used on large crowds. Reports by journalists on social media
indicate that rubber bullets were used in Phoenix.
Joint research conducted by INCLO member organizationsindicate that more than 70% of
the 1,925 documented cases of injuries caused by kinetic impact projectiles (like rubber
bullets and pellet rounds) over a period of 25 years resulted in permanent vision loss, blunt
injuries to the brain, sprain, bruises and fractures. The research highlights that injuries and
death are more common when these weapons are misused –fired from close range,
targeting the head and face, or used excessively and indiscriminately
In order to protect the life and health of protesters and passersby, INCLOcalls on police in
the USA to adopt clear regulations on the use of force and less-lethal weapons in the context
of protest which conform with the recent UN Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons.
It is well established that the use of violence by some protesters does not suspend the right
to protest of all those gathered and it doesn’t provide a license to escalate police responses
and use of excessive or deadly force. The police response must always be lawful and seek
to de-escalate the situation rather than inflame it by resorting to life-threatening weapons.
In addition, INCLOcalls for accountability for the killing of George Floyd. Holding these
officers accountable is the bare minimum needed to show that the American legal system
recognizes that Black lives actually matter. The next step must be bold changes that address
the racism at the root of United States policing institutions.
Furthermore, INCLO calls for credible and independent investigation into the misuse of less-
lethal weapons by police against protesters around the United States. Importantly, and to the
extent that they do not yet exist, independent accountability mechanismsneed to be urgently
established to ensure that excessive use of force and the misuse and overuse of less lethal
weapons during the ongoing protests are fully investigated and prosecuted
INCLOalso notes with grave concern that journalists from CNNwere arrested in
Minneapolis earlier today while covering the protests. This is an attack on freedom of the
press and expression. INCLOis also concerned at reports that the decision to arrest a
reporter may have included elements of racial discrimination, given that there are allegations
of differential treatment of two staff members who were both clearly showing their press
INCLOis a network of 15 independent, national human rights organizations from different
countries around the globe that work together to promote fundamental rights and freedoms.
We support and mutually reinforce the work of member organizations in their respective
countries and collaborate on a bilateral and multilateral basis.
INCLO advocates for the promotion and protection of the right to protest and calls for stricter
regulations on the use of less-lethal weapons at the national and international level.3
Learn more at inclo.net
1See INCLO and PHR, Lethal in Disguise: The Health Consequences of Less-Lethal Weapons
2See INCLO and IHRC, Defending Dissent: Towards State Practices that Protect and Promote the
Rights to Protest (2018) at 95.
3INCLO’s multimedia projectUnhealed Wounds –The Faces Behind the Injuries of Crowd Control-
Weaponsraises awareness about the long-term impact the misuse of less lethal weapons has on
people’s lives and health.