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Tasers Could Kill: Treat Them Like Lethal Weapons, Says Amnesty International

As police forces in London, North Wales, Thames Valley, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire begin participation in new taser trials, Amnesty International says that these controversial weapons have not been proved safe for general use. There is great potential for abuse of taser weapons. The UK Government recently banned the export of tasers to other countries, because of concerns that they are used to torture people. They have also been used in the USA to inflict cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The human rights organisation has been researching electro-shock technology since the 1990s and says that tasers have caused death and severe injury. In 1996 at Pomona, California, 29 year-old Kimberly Watkins died after being shot with a taser. And in a training exercise involving similar voltage, a Texas correction officer suffered a coronary arrest and died.

Robert Parker, Amnesty International UK's arms campaigner said:

'The medical effects of tasers have not been independently tested. Until they are proven safe, they must be treated as lethal weapons. This means keeping them under lock and key, and only using them under strict guidelines.

'Only fully trained and accountable officers should be allowed to use the equipment and their use should be closely monitored. They must not become a standard-issue tool for policing.

'The UK Government has banned the export of these devices to other countries because of evidence of their use in torture. These could now to be used on UK citizens.

'Tasers can easily be abused. Amnesty International has serious concerns about the use of a device which works by inflicting intolerable pain on people.'


A taser gun is a pistol that uses compressed air to fire two metal darts that trail an electric cable back to the handset. The darts are able to penetrate thick clothing, and when they strike the body a five-second 50,000-volt charge is transmitted through the cable. This causes the victim's muscles to contract uncontrollably, leading to intense pain and temporary paralysis.

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