Monday, April 08, 2024

Amnesty International is launching a powerful film showing the devastating impact less-lethal weapons are having on protesters globally, with many suffering life-long injuries and permanent disabilities.

The new film, which features Leidy Cadena who was blinded by police in 2021 during a protest which was part of the National Strikes in Colombia, shows the devastating impact such weapons can have.

“Less lethal weapons, such as rubber bullets, tear gas and batons, have led to thousands of injuries across the world – including permanent disabilities and scores of deaths. This film illustrates the devastating impact they can have when they are misused,” said Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Military, Security and Policing.

“While they have been promoted as safer alternatives to firearms, these weapons are frequently used unlawfully to harass, intimidate and punish protestors – in some cases causing life-long injuries. This has to stop. Amnesty International is campaigning for governments to act now and support the UN process to establish an international treaty to regulate the trade in policing equipment. While there are no effective global human rights-based controls in place, these horrific injuries will continue to happen, and more and more people will suffer lasting physical and psychological damage.”

My eye is gone. I cannot change that. But the way these weapons are used? That can be changed. We need to bring the trade in law enforcement equipment under control.

Leidy Cadena

Across the world, peaceful protesters are facing waves of repression from police and other security forces in deliberate attempts to crush dissent. While some of these weapons can play a legitimate role in law enforcement, they can also cause grave injuries, especially when used abusively against protesters.

Leidy’s experience is just one tragic case amongst many. Payu Boonsophon, 29, from Thailand, was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet in 2022 while he attended a protest outside the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit; while Gustavo Gatica, 26, from Chile, was permanently blinded in both eyes by rubber bullets, just for being part of a demonstration over rising prices and inequality.

Now, Leidy Cadena is joining the call for a Torture-Free Trade Treaty to be established.

“My eye is gone. I cannot change that. But the way these weapons are used? That can be changed. We need to bring the trade in law enforcement equipment under control,” said Leidy. “Despite my injury, I am still passionate about activism. We must all be free to protest peacefully without fear. Protesting is the strongest way to come together and show the world that you don’t agree with something.”

Amnesty International’s Protect the Protest campaign is calling on governments all over the world to support the creation of a Torture-Free Trade Treaty controlling the trade in law enforcement equipment, to ensure that protesters  are protected.

Watch the film now.

Tags: Global, Human Rights, Freedom of expression, Colombia.