Don't use 'pepper gas' on protesters, Amnesty warns

Calls for probe into three J&K deaths, allegedly due to this gas

Amnesty International on Thursday called to halt the use of “pepper gas” to tackle street protests in Jammu and Kashmir.

“In view of the recent deaths and harmful effects on bystanders, Amnesty calls for security forces to revert to previously tested and less potentially harmful methods of crowd dispersal,” it said.

Amnesty also urged the J&K government to conduct “a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation” into the three deaths that were allegedly caused by the use of pepper gas.

On March 8, a 60-year-old woman of Srinagar died after a stray pepper spray grenade landed in her house from outside and detonated, engulfing her home in fumes, it said in a statement.

Two others, Muhammad Yusuf Sofi, 40, Abdul Rashid Sheikh, 60, also died allegedly from exposure to the pepper gas, it said.

All three were residents of Srinagar, and died in separate incidents where pepper spray grenades were used by law enforcement.

All three individuals suffered from pulmonary diseases such as chronic asthma, which were exacerbated by prolonged exposure to the pepper spray, doctors have been quoted as saying in local media reports, Amnesty said.

‘Exercise restraint’

Amnesty stressed that these deaths underscored that police must exercise restraint at all times in the use of “non-lethal” weapons, and minimise damage and injury.

Pepper spray grenades were incorporated into the arsenal of “non-lethal” weaponry used to maintain law and order and disperse large crowds in the state after a five-month street protest in 2010.

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