Health consequences of crowd-control weapons

April 10, 2016


Police and other law inforcement agencies throughout the world are increasingly responding to popular protests with so-called crowd-control weapons, which include tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons. These weapons are regularly used to disperse protesters, which has resulted in injuries, disability, and death. The report Lethal in Disguise published by Physicians for Human Rights and the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO) aims to raise awareness about the misuse and abuse of crowd-control weapons, the detrimental health effects that these weapons can have, and the impact of their use on the meaningful enjoyment of freedom of assembly and expression.

The report examines six kinds of weapons used internationally: kinetic impact projectiles (rubber bullets), chemical irritants (tear gas), water cannons, disorientation devices (flashbang or stun grenades), acoustic weapons (sound cannons or sonic cannons), and directed energy weapons (electromagnetic heating devices). The health effects of kinetic impact projectiles and chemical irritants are described in significant detail; these are the two weapon types about which there is a lot of evidence. There are many flagrant examples of the misuse of crowd-control weapons, some of which are documented in case studies included in the report. Countries covered are: Egypt,  South Africa, Israel, Argentina, Kenya, Hungary, England, Canada and the United States.

Lethal in Disguise. The Health Consequences of Crowd-Control Weapons. PHR & INCLO, 2016