Joint Statement on Police Acquisition of Water Cannons- Call for Transparent Water Cannon Guidelines in line with Human Rights Standards
(Chinese version: https://www.hkcro.org/petition-wc-chi/)
It has been reported that the water cannons procured by the Police Force earlier are being delivered to Hong Kong. The report says that the water cannons are at the final stages of being assembled and tested, and are expected to be ready for deployment by the end of 2018.
The Hong Kong Police Force have been refusing to increase transparency in the process of purchasing the water cannons. They have refused to explain the lethality of water cannons, as well as the relevant principles and guidelines for their use. We strongly disapprove of this. We are of the opinions that the Police Force have failed to comply with their duty of accountability, transparency, and effective communication with the general public in accordance with the missions and values of the Force.
We are concerned that if the forthcoming water cannons are abused, they can be used for wide-range and indiscriminate attacks against citizens participating in processions and assembly, as well as other people present (such as human rights observers, reporters and passers-by). Therefore, the Police Force should make public the guiding principles, guidelines and procedures for the use of water cannons so that the public can understand under what circumstances and how the water cannons may be used, so that they can assess the risks of participating in a particular procession or assembly, and, further, so that the same general public can monitor the use of water cannons by the Police Force. This is necessary, so as to prevent the water cannons from becoming tools of injuring citizens, or of suppression of freedoms such as of assembly and of the press.
We emphasize that using water cannons to target or disperse protesters improperly, or harming innocent people in the course of using the water cannons, may amount to illegal use of force, and an unlawful violation of the right to assembly. Police officers using excessive force or ordering subordinates to use excessive force may be personally liable to criminal charges. The Police Force must provide adequate training to commanders and officers operating water cannons, and to set up strict monitoring and record-keeping measures to ensure water cannons are not misused.
We ask the Security Bureau and the Police Force to refer to the UN’s Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and Joint report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on the proper management of assemblies, OSCE’s Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Human Rights Handbook on Policing Assemblies on the standards on the use of force and handling of processions and assemblies by law enforcement agents.
In addition, we ask the Security Bureau and the Police Force to incorporate the following principles in formulating the guiding principles and guidelines on the use of water cannons:
- The guiding principles and the guidelines for the use of water cannons must be accessible to the public.
- Forbidding indiscriminate attacks with the water cannons; harming the innocents must be prevented. The police must comply with the proportionality and necessity principles when using the water cannons and restricting the water pressure of the water cannons based on the principle of minimum force. The guidelines must specify the maximum pressure for different ranges.
- Under no circumstance should the police disperse a peaceful assembly with water cannons, regardless of whether the police regard that assembly as lawful or not.
- Under no circumstance and no matter what the distance is, the police officers must not aim or target a protester’s head with a water cannon; they must also not target protesters standing on railings or persons who are not on level ground. When debris is present at the scene, the police must consider the danger posed to protesters when using a water cannon.
- Under no circumstance could a water cannon be used against physically vulnerable persons, such as the elderly, children and pregnant women. The police officers will be required to manage such persons by other means.
- The Police Force must provide sufficient and clear escape routes for protesters when dispersing protesters with water cannons.
- A water cannon must not be used when the cold weather warning is in force or when the temperature is at or below 12 degrees Celsius.
- The Police Force must arrange for sufficient medical personnel and rescue services at the site where the water cannons are used; the arrangements must uphold the neutrality principle of an ICRC personnel, and for the purposes of providing humanitarian aid, including not assisting in the police’s actions with the firemen and medical personnel and their equipment.
- The police officers must give clear and sufficient warning by verbal instructions, texts and signs to protesters before using a water cannon. The Police Force should have adequate disability awareness and cultural sensitivity. Their warning must attend to the special needs of persons with disabilities (such as impaired hearing, cognitive difficulties) and language barriers.
- The Police Force must provide sufficient training for officers who command and operate water cannons and ensure that they have sufficient and in-depth knowledge of the principles of human rights, freedom of assembly and the standards on the use of force; the police must document the decision to use and the deployment of water cannons in details, the number and nature of injuries caused by the water cannons and relevant details, and all other relevant information; the Police Force should make a report to the public afterward.
Civil Rights Observer, Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, Civil Human Rights Front, The Progressive Lawyers Group, Nurse Politik, Reclaiming Social Work Movement, Democratic Action Accountants, Civic Party, Democratic Party, The Professionals Guild, Progressive Teachers’ Alliance, HKEd4All, Artists Action, Defense of HK Freedoms, Act Voice, 良心之友, 真普選救港大聯盟, 曉麗關注plus, Citizen Charter 617, CM Doctors Cure, 基督徒社關團契, League of Social Democrats, Demosisto, Narrow church, Insurance Arise, Doctors for Democracy, TomTong, Be a Smart Voter, Venus Kwan, HKBU Hill God, Sai Wan Sports Club, Vancouver Friends of Hong Kong, Democracy Groundwork, HKVSA,
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