UK & World News
EU Anti-Austerity Police 'Too Heavy Handed'
Anti-austerity demonstrators in Europe have suffered excessive police violence, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
The human rights group has urged European Union governments to protect the right to peaceful protest during the eurozone crisis.
It said people rallying against government spending cuts, tax rises and job losses in countries hit by the crisis had sometimes been seriously injured by police or had had medical treatment withheld.
"People demonstrating peacefully in EU countries have been beaten, kicked, shot at and wounded with rubber bullets and sprayed with tear gas," Amnesty said.
"Yet excessive use of force by police goes un-investigated and unpunished."
The Amnesty report, entitled Policing Demonstrations in the European Union, described several cases where police had severely beaten protesters in Greece, Spain and Romania.
Greek journalist Manolis Kypreos was left deaf when police threw a stun grenade at him in June 2011, the report says.
Mr Kypreos has since recovered some hearing but his disability has effectively ended his career, Amnesty said.
"Governments must spell out and reiterate that police officers may use force only when strictly necessary," Amnesty campaign coordinator for Europe and Central Asia, Fotis Filippou, said.
"They must introduce strict guidelines on the use of potentially lethal riot-control devices such as pepper spray and tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets."
The report warned that excessive force and arbitrary arrests of protesters could turn anger against governments into anger against the police, increasing the risk of violence at anti-austerity demonstrations.
Under international law, police can use force only when it is required for them to perform their duty, and they must be restrained in its use, Amnesty said.
Police forces in several European countries have faced budget cuts themselves as governments seek to shrink their huge deficits, the report added.