1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Amnesty says police use of rubber bullets on the rise

March 14, 2023

In a study of over 30 countries, the rights group found that the use of rubber bullets and other projectiles by security forces on protesters has led to injuries and even death.

Thailand APEC 2022 Gipfel Proteste Polizei
The research was conducted over five yearsImage: Wason Wanichakorn/AP Photo/picture alliance

Police use of rubber bullets and other projectiles against peaceful protesters has increased worldwide, leading to many injuries and even death, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

The group has called for tighter international regulation of the trade and use of such equipment, often known as "less lethal" weapons.

What the report said

Amnesty said it had conducted research in more than 30 countries over the past five years. The survey followed the use of rubber bullets, rubberised buckshot, and tear gas grenades fired directly at demonstrators in south and central America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the US.

"Thousands of protesters and bystanders have been maimed and dozens killed by the often reckless and disproportionate use of less lethal law enforcement weaponry," the human rights organization said in a report titled "My Eye Exploded," published with Omega Research Foundation.

"There has been an alarming increase in eye injuries, including eyeball ruptures, retinal detachments and the complete loss of sight," Amnesty said.

The report said the use of rubber bullets to suppress peaceful protests has become increasingly common in the US. "My eye exploded from the impact of the rubber bullet and my nose was exploded and my nose went from where it was supposed to be migrated under the other eye," A demonstrator shot in the face in Minneapolis in 2020 told the organization.

Danger of tear gas shells 

 Amnesty had also documented cases of tear gas shells being fired directly at people in countries like Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Iran, Iraq, Tunisia and Venezuela, among others.

In Chile, the police's response to protests from October 2019 caused more than 30 cases of eye loss, according to the country's National Institute for Human Rights.

Some protesters from different countries reported suffering from bone and skull fractures, brain injuries, the rupture of internal organs, or punctured hearts and lungs from broken ribs, and even death.

In Iraq, security forces used specialist grenades that are 10 times heavier than typical tear gas munitions at protesters, causing at least two dozen deaths in 2019, Amnesty said.

Spanish forces used tennis-ball-sized rubber projectiles which led to at least one death from head trauma, said campaign group Stop Balas de Goma.

"Legally-binding global controls on the manufacture and trade in less lethal weapons... along with effective guidelines on the use of force are urgently needed to combat an escalating cycle of abuses," said Amnesty International's Patrick Wilcken.

Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation are among 30 organizations calling for a UN-backed Torture-Free Trade Treaty to prohibit the manufacture and trade of inherently abusive kinetic impact projectiles (KIPs) and other law enforcement weapons.

They have also called for control of the trade of other law enforcement equipment, including rubber and plastic bullets.

tg/rc (dpa, AFP)

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

A wide shot of the three-train accident in Odisha, India on June 3, 2023
Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage