Less lethal weapons can be defined as any weapon which is less likely to kill than normal military hardware, therefore normal guns and bombs are out while plastic bullets, electric shock batons and tear gas are in. Previously marketed as 'non-lethal' weapons they had to be rebranded once people started noticing the fatality rate.
Jane's is a publishing company which specializes in producing trade magazines and websites for the security and defence industries, basically advertising and information publications combined with yellow pages type directories for those who wish to be kept up to date on everything from the latest biological weapons to the newest advances in crowd control techniques.
The organizsers didn't release the guest list, but from the list of speakers it's fairly clear that this conference was aimed at various police forces. M.C. for the conference was Colin Burrows, formerly of the RUC (who have killed 14 people in the North with 'less lethal' plastic bullets) and the line up also included members of police forces from Los Angeles, Germany and the infamous English West Midlands division. Also in attendance was a man named Tom Smith, the president of Taser International Inc, a company which manufactures weapons that deliver 50,000 volts of electricity and are designed to disrupt the victims nervous system, disabling muscle control and temporarily incapacitating the person. What Tom probably didn't mention was the numerous documented deaths caused by Tasers in the U.S.
However, the use of these kind of weapons is international. Amnesty International has reported the fact that in 2002 they were being imported into over eleven countries with wide spread documented records of torture and abuse of prisoners. In Brazil, for example, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture stated that: "Torture was reportedly practiced during every phase of detention ...the most common forms of torture were electric shocks, beatings, and threats."
Interestingly, another conference speaker was our own Garda Assistant Commissioner Joe Egan. Stun guns were briefly available through a legal loophole in Ireland in the early 80's until the trade was shut down by the gardai. At the time, they rejected using the devices themselves claiming that they were unsafe but maybe now that they've seen the newer, deadlier model they've changed their mind?
This conference was about two things. Firstly making massive amounts of money for companies like Taser. In 2002 the U.S. alone granted export licenses for almost $15 million worth of these types of weapons.
Secondly it was about the gradual attempt to militarise and criminalise public protest across the E.U. and U.S.
At the recent Republican National Convention in New York entirely peaceful protesters were brutalised with Tasers and electro-shock batons as well as the more traditional police club. In Ireland, while the gardai are still trying to forget the day they were caught battering people at a street party on Dame Street, Garda Representative Association spokesperson P.J. Stone recently claimed that gardai armed with guns and not just batons should face protesters at the Mayday actions. Since they managed to break people's bones using the traditional baton we'd hate to see what would have happened if they had used any of the weapons being marketed in Jury's.
We don't think that these devices have any place in our society which is why we called for Jury's to cancel this conference and why we took part in the protests called by the Dublin Grassroots Network outside the hotel.
This edition is No83 published in November 2004