In a press release issued Oct. 28, Amnesty International USA announced that it will be sending a delegation of human rights observers to monitor the response of law enforcement to protests by indigenous communities.
As previously reported on The Root, tensions rose at a #NoDAPL resistance camp Oct. 27 when more than 100 militarized police in riot gear showed up at camp flanked by multiple mine-resistant ambush-protected military vehicles, a sound cannon, an armored truck and a bulldozer to face off against protesters, known as water protectors, who had built the camp on federally recognized private land in the path of the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline in Cannonball, N.D.
After a standoff that lasted more than six hours, law enforcement arrested more than 140 #NoDAPL water protectors in an effort to evict the camp and clear the path so construction on the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline could continue.
AIUSA previously sent a delegation of observers to the area in August and has stayed in contact with both the indigenous community and law enforcement policing the protests. AIUSA says that sending more observers is a result of increased arrests and a more militarized response to the protesters.
AIUSA sent a letter to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department (pdf) Oct. 28, advising that it would be sending observers to the area and urging law enforcement to “ensure that the treatment of demonstrators is in accordance with international human rights standards and the U.S. Constitution.”
“Our observers are here to ensure that everyone’s human rights are protected,” Eric Ferrero, director of communications for AIUSA, said. “We’re deeply concerned about what we heard during our previous visits to Standing Rock and what has been reported to us since.”
According to AIUSA, in addition to police using pepper spray and beanbags against protesters, those who have recently been arrested report being strip-searched and forced to pay bail for minor offenses. Members of the media and legal observers have also been arrested and charged with minor offenses.
“Under international law and standards, arrests should not be used to intimidate or prevent people from participating in peaceful assembly,” AIUSA said in the press release. “If individuals are arrested, they should not be restrained for prolonged periods of time, and should be treated humanely.”
“People here just want to stand up for the rights of indigenous people and protect their natural resources. These people should not be treated like the enemy,” Ferrero said. “Police must keep the peace using minimal force appropriate to the situation. Confronting men, women and children while outfitted in gear more suited for the battlefield is a disproportionate response.”
Read more at Amnesty International.