08/04/2003

Latest baton rounds branded 'more dangerous'

A new report on baton rounds published by the Human Rights Commission has raised serious concerns about the safety of plastic bullets.

The report, written by the Omega Foundation for the Commission, concluded that the baton round travelled faster and hit harder than the one it replaced and that its lack of accuracy in use made it potentially more lethal.

The report also details shortcomings in the system of accountability, particularly in relation to the use of baton rounds by the army. It found that there is no effective independent investigation when rounds are fired by soldiers. It concludes that the Government's search for a safe alternative to baton rounds has not been carried out with sufficient urgency or independence.

Commenting on the report, Brice Dickson, Chief Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission, said: "The Commission is disturbed by Omega's findings. We are particularly concerned about the potential danger to children from injury by the baton round and indeed some children have already been hurt by it. The authorities should note that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has called for the baton round to be withdrawn from use in riot control."

Professor Dickson added: "While the news last week that the Government hopes to have an alternative to baton rounds before the end of the year is a welcome development, the Human Rights Commission calls on Government to urgently step up its search for safe alternatives to the baton round, to make that research more independent, and to set itself a time limit for withdrawing the baton round. The introduction of safe alternatives to baton rounds is in the interests of both police officers and civilians, especially children."

Established in 1999, the NI Human Rights Commission has a duty to carry out research in order to promote understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights in the province.

(MB)

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