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US: Investigation of Philadelphia Police Needed

Human Rights Watch expressed concern over reports of police ill-treatment of protesters during the Republican National Convention, held at the beginning of August.

"Protesters allege that police used excessive force during arrests and subjected protesters to harsh treatment in detention. These complaints should be fully investigated, and those who are responsible should be held accountable," said Allyson Collins, senior researcher.

Human Rights Watch interviewed several protesters who were arrested and detained. They and others alleged excessive force by police during arrest and excessively harsh treatment while in detention. Many were arrested without apparent cause -- while walking down a sidewalk, taking a photograph, or making puppets for the protest marches. While in custody, many reported that they were not allowed a single telephone call for days, did not receive medication, and witnessed police and jail personnel verbally and physically abuse detainees.

"These allegations of excessively harsh treatment, including the high bail amounts set for many of those arrested, have a chilling effect on those who wish to express their views and exercise their right to free speech," said Collins.

The letter was sent to Philadelphia Mayor John Street and Police Commissioner John Timoney.

Human Rights Watch has monitored and criticized police responses to protesters in Washington, DC during World Bank/IMF meetings in April and in Seattle, Washington during the World Trade Organization there in November/December 1999. In July 1998, Human Rights Watch published a report, Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States, which included a chapter on Philadelphia's police force. Last month, Human Rights Watch issued a statement calling for a full investigation of the alleged beating by police of Thomas Jones following a high-speed chase and a review of post-chase police practices.

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