A French riot policeman throws a tear gas round during clashes on the sidelines of demonstrations as part of a nationwide day of strikes and protests called by unions over the proposed pensions overhaul, in Paris on March 11, 2023. LEHTIKUVA / AFP


Amnesty International and Omega Research Foundation have released a report titled "My Eye Exploded," which highlights the misuse of less lethal weapons by law enforcement agencies during peaceful protests. The report, which is based on research conducted over the past five years in 30 different countries, reveals that the use of less lethal weapons, such as rubber bullets, has become more frequent and widespread, resulting in permanent injuries and deaths.

The use of less lethal weapons by law enforcement officials is an attempt to stifle peaceful protests. These weapons have caused significant eye injuries, including eye ruptures and retinal detachments, which have resulted in vision loss. Bone fractures, skull fractures, brain injuries, internal organ lacerations, and bleeding have also been reported. Rubber bullets have shattered ribs, pierced hearts and lungs, and caused significant internal organ damage.

The report states that law enforcement agencies misuse these weapons to cause visible injuries that frighten individuals and discourage them from participating in peaceful protests. Leidy Cadena Torres, who lost her eye when she was shot in the face with a rubber bullet by riot police in Bogotá, Colombia, in April 2021, said, "They are trying to cause visible injuries to scare people off the streets."

Less lethal weapons, such as rubber bullets, have become commonplace in the suppression of peaceful protests in the United States as well. A protester who was shot with a rubber bullet in Minneapolis in May 2020 described the injuries he sustained, including the loss of an eye and the need for facial reconstruction surgery.

In Spain, tennis ball-sized and extremely inaccurate rubber bullets have caused at least one fatal brain injury and 24 other serious injuries. In France, at least 21 patients have been treated for facial injuries caused by rubber bullets, including broken bones and blindness.

Additionally, law enforcement officials have fired tear gas canisters directly at individuals or crowds in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Gaza, Guinea, Hong Kong, Iran, Iraq, Peru, Sudan, Tunisia, and Venezuela.

The report highlights the need to address law enforcement's use and abuse of force. Less lethal weapons are often viewed as a less violent alternative to firearms, but their misuse can have severe consequences, including permanent injuries and death. The report's authors urge governments to hold law enforcement agencies accountable for their actions and to ensure that they use these weapons only in situations where they are necessary and proportionate.

In conclusion, it is essential to address the misuse of less lethal weapons by law enforcement officials and to ensure that they are held accountable for their actions. The right to peaceful assembly and protest is a fundamental human right that must be protected, and the use of excessive force must be avoided. Governments must ensure that law enforcement officials receive adequate training in the use of less lethal weapons and that they are only used in situations where they are necessary and proportionate.


WorldCon 75, Scott Lynch; photo by Jana Blomqvist


WorldCon 75, Robin Hobb; photo by Jana Blomqvist


Based on an interview by Alisa Nirman on 3.10.2016