Law enforcement officers in the US state of Missouri should be investigated by authorities for human rights abuses, according to a recent Amnesty International report. The organization also highlighted intimidation of protesters in the state.
The report, published on Friday, is based on the international human rights organization's research into actions of police in Ferguson, Missouri.
An unarmed black teenager was killed by a police officer in Ferguson in August, with weeks of protests erupting in the region after the incident. Amnesty sent a delegation to the area to monitor the situation, which reported human rights violations.
"What Amnesty International witnessed in Missouri on the ground this summer underscored that human rights abuses do not just happen across borders and oceans," Steven Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said.
Naming the freedom to protest as one of the basic human rights "no matter where you live in the world," Hawkins said he witnessed a violation of international standards in the state.
"I saw a police force, armed to the teeth, with military-grade weapons. I saw a crowd that included the elderly and young children fighting the effects of tear gas. There must be accountability and systemic change that follows this excessive force," he said.
Observers who monitored the protests and police response "highlighted on a national level the persistent and widespread pattern of racially discriminatory treatment by law enforcement officers across the United States, including unjustified stops and searches, ill treatment and excessive, and sometimes lethal, use of force."
Based on the findings, the organization demanded that the "government must to do much more to address systemic racial discrimination."
"Privately I was thinking that there are many parts of the United States where apartheid is flourishing," then-United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on the police response to Ferguson protests, as quoted by Amnesty.
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The report also criticized the use of chemical irritants and stun grenades towards peaceful protesters by Ferguson police.
Questioning the police's protest dispersal practices, such as the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, the organization also condemned the local law which allows police to use deadly force even with no imminent threat of harm from a person it's directed at.
The group said the Missouri law "may be unconstitutional and is clearly out of line with international standards."
Unarmed Michael Brown, 18, was shot dead by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson on August 9. The killing sparked a wave of protests in the region and beyond, with people marching against brutal police actions.
According to Amnesty, police actions in Ferguson have not only raised human rights concerns, "including the right to life," and to freedom from discrimination, but also made the organization highlight police's mishandling of media and human rights observers’ presence during protests.
"Legal and human rights observers as well as members of the media have repeatedly been obstructed from carrying out their roles and responsibilities," the report says, adding that at least 19 journalists and media representatives have been arrested between August 13 and October 2, "with others subjected to tear gas and the use of rubber bullets."
The absence of comprehensive national data on police use of force in the country was also noted.
"No one currently knows how many people are shot and killed by police officers in the United States," Amnesty said.
One of the latest protests which are ongoing in the country, was the event dubbed the ‘National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality'. Approximately 60 cities across the US organized their own events on October 22, with rally in New York gathering crowds marching to express their protest against police actions.