Police abuse a serious threat to the rule of law: senior European official
'In the context of the 2013 Gezi events in Turkey, I received numerous and particularly serious allegations of excessive use of force by the police,' Nils Muiznieks said. DAILY NEWS photoA senior Council of Europe official has urged states to develop effective means of stamping out police misconduct, citing the excessive use of police force during protests in European countries, including Ukraine and Turkey.
“In recent months, Europe has witnessed several glaring instances in which policing of demonstrations has gone beyond what is legally and ethically acceptable,” Nils Muiznieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a Feb. 25 statement, citing the excessive use of force by police during recent protests in Ukraine and last year’s Gezi Park protests in Turkey.
“In the context of the 2013 Gezi events in Turkey, I received numerous and particularly serious allegations of excessive use of force by the police, including excessive and improper use of tear gas and the use of gas canisters as projectiles,” said Muiznieks.
He said the excessive use of force by police against peaceful demonstrators in late November 2013 in Ukraine had since resulted in a growing number of deaths among both protestors and police. “After interviewing numerous victims and examining many medical records, I detected a clear pattern of targeting the head and face, which is completely unnecessary and disproportionate.”
He also said the police repeatedly targeted both journalists and medical personnel, “who could clearly be identified by their clothing” in both Ukraine and Turkey. The commissioner also criticized the violence targeting minorities, in particular Roma, and migrants, by the police particularly in Greece and France.
Muiznieks urged states to use “effective means” to combat such police misconduct. “This is an essential requirement for restoring the public’s trust in state authority and safeguarding human rights and the rule of law,” he said.
He also urged states to “develop clear guidelines concerning the proportionate use of force by police,” including the use of tear gas, pepper spray, water cannon and firearms in the context of demonstrations, in line with international standards.
Riot police officers must be obliged to display identification numbers in a way which makes them visible from a distance, said Muiznieks.
He called on European states to “combat impunity for human rights violations committed by law enforcement officials” so that victims could receive justice, saying this would also prevent future misconduct by law enforcement officials and increase the public trust in and cooperation with law enforcement.
“It is of the utmost importance that all allegations of police misconduct are effectively investigated so as to lead to the identification and punishment of those responsible,” he said.