Rubber bullets should no longer be used for crowd control, health experts warn

15.5% of people hit by a rubber bullet are left with a permanent disability

British soldiers fire rubber bullets and use a water cannon at Divis flats in Belfast in July 1973.

British soldiers fire rubber bullets and use a water cannon at Divis flats in Belfast in July 1973.

 

Rubber or plastic bullets should no longer be used for crowd control as they have the “potential to cause severe injuries and death”, health experts have warned.

A study, which analysed published evidence on injury, disability and death associated with the use of the bullets in a number of countries including Northern Ireland, found 3 per cent died of their injuries, while out of all the injuries reported, nearly three out of four (71 per cent) were severe.

Some 15.5 per cent of all survivors were left with permanent disability as a direct result of the rubber bullet impact they sustained, while several of the studies highlighted instances in which the weapons unintentionally injured bystanders and peaceful demonstrators instead of their intended targets.

The research, conducted by Physicians for Human Rights and the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations, and published in BMJ Open, also looked at cases of rubber or plastic bullets being fired in the United States, Israel, Palestine, Switzerland, Turkey and south Asian countries between 1990 and 2017.

Researchers concluded that the bullets “do not appear to be an appropriate means of force in crowd-control settings”.

“Our findings indicate that these weapons have the potential to cause severe injuries and death,” they added.

Last month a coroner ruled that the killing of 11-year-old Francis Rowntree, who was shot by an army rubber bullet in Belfast in 1972, was not justified.

Brian Sherrard said the soldier who fired the fatal shot was not given any training in the use of the bullets or made aware that they were potentially lethal.

– PA