Scotland: Amnesty warns government over roll out of tasers

Amnesty International stepped up its campaign this week against the roll out of tasers in Scotland. Amnesty International’s Scottish Office has submitted a written response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on electronic training aids for animals, to outline concerns about much more powerful electro-shock weapons, known as tasers, used on human beings.

Amnesty International is concerned at the wider deployment of tasers in the UK, with pilots for extended use in England and Wales, and calls from policing organisations for tasers to be issued to all officers.

John Watson, Amnesty International’s Scottish Programme Director, commented:

“We may soon face a situation where it is illegal to use electronic training devices on animals, but legal to use far more powerful electro-shock weapons on human beings.”

“Tasers are legally defined in the UK as weapons of torture. As such, it is illegal for UK companies to manufacture, export or import tasers. However, tasers can be imported into the UK for use by our police forces.”

“Tasers are dangerous weapons, designed to incapacitate and inflict enormous pain on human beings. The 50,000-volt electric shock they inflict overrides the neurological system, contracts all the muscles in the body, and can result in burn marks and people losing control of their bodily functions.”

“Amnesty International recognises concerns for the safety of police officers in our communities. The police absolutely have a duty to protect themselves and our communities from violent situations. However, arming more police officers with these potentially lethal weapons – without the rigorous training and safeguards that are needed – far from enhancing community safety, could seriously undermine the relationship between police officers and the communities they protect.”

John Watson also points to international experience of taser misuse, and particularly to recent tragic events in Canada, where a man died after being stunned by police with a taser in Vancouver Airport. Disturbing video footage shows that Mr Dziekanski, who arrived from Poland and spoke no English, was agitated and confused after he became separated from his mother and having spent hours in the airport. The Canadian police are now examining their policies and procedure relating to the use of tasers

John Watson further commented:

“In Scotland, tasers can only currently be used by specially trained firearms officers, and deployed only as an alternative to a gun, which Amnesty International believes is acceptable. However, we are opposed to any further roll out of tasers. In light of developments in England and Wales, we would like an assurance from the Scottish Government that they will not consider this simply as an operational matter for the police, and that they will rule out the widespread use of tasers in Scotland.”

“We cannot let the standards that we set for the treatment of animals exceed those that we set for human beings.”

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