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Independent Panel Should Review Police at WTO

The panel should investigate allegations that the police used excessive force and city officials placed unwarranted restrictions on the rights to free expression and assembly of peaceful protesters in violation of constitutional and international standards.

Human Rights Watch also condemned the destruction of property and violent acts by some protesters.

Allegations requiring investigation include claims that:

- police tactics to disperse protests in areas of Seattle outside the "no demonstration" zone were overly-aggressive. In particular, police actions on the evening of December 1 in the Capitol Hill area require investigation. Protesters and residents report that police used tear gas, concussion bombs, and shot rubber pellets into crowds, without warning, at a protest unrelated to the WTO conference. The encounter reportedly began when a police car drove into a group of protesters.

- the decision by city officials to curtail all protests in the downtown area, including peaceful ones, may have violated protesters' right to free expression and assembly. Despite assurances that they could be present in the area if they did not block traffic, protesters report that they were not allowed to do so.

- there were restrictions on detainees' attempting to meet, or speak by telephone, with public defenders or other legal counsel.

- CS tear gas was sprayed into the faces of protesters who had chained themselves to objects or were cornered, and thus could not leave the area as ordered.

- police indiscriminately shot rubber pellets, bullets, or other projectiles into crowds.

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