22 February 2010

Tasers And Post-Modern Torture

By José Steinsleger

And, if after the first discharge, the detainee still moves or writhes in pain, the “representative of the law” can discharge 17, 25, 50,000 more watts, provided that it is not pointed at the eyes or the genitals, and that the suspect does not suffer from any cardiac condition or is seriously injured on falling down after receiving the discharge. The sticky publicity folder of the Taser X26 electric pistol (which does not, but can, kill) advises that to avoid “collateral damage”, the agent should be familiar with technical skills and “ethics”(sic). The weapon kit includes a defibrillator, an electric device that lets the police re-establish the normal cardiac rhythm.

In place of bullets, the Taser ejects two darts linked to a cable, which go through the clothes, insert themselves in the skin and immediately discharge an electric shock. There is more in store. The latest invented by Taser International is a projectile that can be used by conventional .12 bore shotguns. The projectile (which can target at 30 metres) comes with a battery to generate the discharge on impact with the body without the need to be tied to any cable.

Taser pistols acquired fame in September 2007 in the auditorium of Florida University. A student loudly questioned the former presidential candidate, John Kerry. When the boy exceeded his time, the police tackled him to the floor. The video turned out to be “comic”: shaking their heads, the public alternated between seeing the student screaming like a pig and hearing the police who, without batting an eyelid, responded to his questions and explained the benefits of democracy.

In the USA, the Tasers are used in 5,000 police stations and prisons in 49 states. In Canada, more than 60 police forces use the weapon against rebellious young people, the mentally challenged, drunks or unarmed people who argue with traffic police. And against children. Amnesty International (AI) related in a report the case of a 14-year-old girl who in the middle of a fight among students got into an argument with the police. She received two Taser darts in the chest.

The use of Taser is recommended against drug addicts, drunks, and people who are aggressive or know martial arts. The people who received the discharge say it feels an electric pinch which incapacitates the muscular system and paralyses them in five seconds.

In the report Volts Without Control (AI, 2007), it was estimated that 269 people have died in the United States between 2001 and 2007. However, later reports of the organisation increased the figure to more than 360 dead. “Tasers,” it explains, “are weapons of electric shock which are presented as an alternative to the use of firearms or lethal weapons, decreasing the number of dead and injured. Nevertheless, these paralysing pistols have the capacity to inflict severe pain through the discharge of 50,000 volts to the body with only the press of a button and without leaving any obvious marks, which makes them into a very dangerous instrument of torture and ill-treatment".

Employed the police force of 45 countries in the world (approximately 260, 000 are in circulation), the concept of Taser pistols corresponds to the that which the former Vice-President Dick Cheney called “refined techniques” in the CIA interrogations of supposed terrorists, permitting the “saving of lives” and “preventing attacks” (sic). An idea that matches that of Tom Smith, president of Taser International: “Our arms save lives, reduce the number of operations of detention and created more secure condition of work for all”.

Source: La Jornada

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