Amnesty International calls for review of security measures at G8 and G20 summits in Ontario

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      Amnesty International Canada is calling for an independent review of the security measures put in place for the G8 and G20 summits in Ontario.

      In a statement today (June 27), the organization expressed "very deep concern" that human rights have "suffered considerably" during the protests in Toronto.

      According to Amnesty, the heavy police presence in the city—as well as acts of vandalism and violence by some protesters—has helped to create an atmosphere of fear that has kept many people from participating in peaceful demonstrations.

      "At a time when the public should be encouraged to actively engage in debate and discussion about pressing global issues, the security measures that were put in place in Toronto in the lead up to the G20 Summit held in the city instead narrowed the space for civic expression and cast a chill over citizen participation in public discourse," the organization stated.

      Amnesty said the Canadian and Ontario governments should launch the review to examine the effect of security measures on the freedoms of expression and assembly, as well as the impact of police operations on the rights of people who live, work, and own businesses near the G20 summit site.

      It also "unequivocally" condemned the vandalism and violence that occurred during the protests on Saturday (June 26).

      Today, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association also issued a statement, denouncing the sweeping arrests made by police at the G20 protests.


      Police move G20 protesters back at Queen's Park on June 26.

      You can follow Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.


      Here's the full text of Amnesty International Canada's statement:

      As the Annual General Meeting of Amnesty International Canada (English branch) concluded today in Toronto, Amnesty International members from across the country expressed their very deep concern that important rights associated with peaceful protest have suffered considerably in the city over the weekend.

      In connection with the G20 leaders summit, the heavy police and security presence that has permeated the city for several days, as well as acts of vandalism and other violence by numbers of individuals, have contributed to an atmosphere of apprehension and fearfulness that has led many individuals to refrain from or limit their involvement in peaceful demonstrations and other activities.

      At a time when the public should be encouraged to actively engage in debate and discussion about pressing global issues, the security measures that were put in place in Toronto in the lead up to the G20 Summit held in the city instead narrowed the space for civic expression and cast a chill over citizen participation in public discourse. Many thousands of individuals did take part in public events such as the “People First” demonstration during the afternoon of June 26, but felt apprehensive while doing so. Many others did not take part out of a sense of unease and fearfulness.

      In meeting in Toronto at the same time as G8 and G20 leaders have held their summits in Canada, Amnesty International members have sought to draw attention to important human rights issues that should be priority concerns for both bodies. We have highlighted that it is a particularly key juncture in the development of the G20 as an emerging body that will exert growing influence on world economic, political and social affairs. We have emphasized, therefore, that we look to them to take action to ensure that human rights are brought to the heart of the global effort to fight poverty, particularly through the millennium development goals. We look to them to ensure that respect for universal human rights will become the hallmark of their deliberations and decision making.

      Yet at a time when human rights need so very much to come to the fore, we have instead witnessed and experienced a curtailment of civil liberties. On the streets, protesters were faced with high fences, new weaponry, massive surveillance, and the intimidating impact of the overwhelming police presence. Combined with uncertainty and worry about unclear powers of arrest, this created an atmosphere in which countless individuals felt unable or too fearful to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly and participate in rallies and other events which would have offered them an opportunity to express their views on a range of important national and international issues.

      We unequivocally condemn the acts of vandalism and violence that have been carried out by numbers of individuals, particularly during the evening of June 26. Such acts are criminal and undermine the safety of the many thousands of individuals involved in peaceful protest. We recognize that police have a responsibility to respond to such actions, to protect public safety, prevent damage to property, and ensure the safety of leaders and other officials attending the G20 Summit.

      There are concerns, however, about possible police excesses, including reports of journalists being arrested or constrained in the course of covering confrontations between police and demonstrators. In one reported case, the journalist was apparently beaten in the course of being arrested. Nearly 500 people are reported to have been arrested, as of the morning of June 27th. Witnesses have reported that some of those arrested appear to have been engaging in peaceful protest. It has not been possible to get clear information about which tactics and weapons police have deployed in the course of securing specific areas and responding to incidents of both violence and legitimate protest. This lack of clear information has further fueled misunderstanding and fears about police actions as protests are expected to continue.

      The amount of money, reported to be in excess of $1 billion, that has been spent on security measures in Toronto over the past several days has been unprecedented. Yet on one hand extensive acts of vandalism and other violence were carried out and on the other hand thousands of individuals felt nervous and uneasy about exercising their right to engage in peaceful protest.

      This cannot become the hallmark of how the G20 conducts its business. Instead, we call on G20 leaders to ensure that future Summits are carried out in ways that maximize rather than restrict rights associated with peaceful protest, particularly freedom of expression and assembly.

      Lessons must be learned from these events. We call on the Canadian government and the government of the province of Ontario to cooperate in launching an independent review of the security measures that were put in place for the G8 and G20 Summits. The review should include opportunities for public input and the results should be released to the public. Among other issues, the review should consider:

      ӢThe impact of security measures, including decisions about the location and venues for the two summits, on the protection of human rights, including the freedoms of expression and assembly.

      Ӣ The ways in which police operations and the use of legal provisions such as the Public Works Protection Act have impacted the rights of the many thousands of people living, working and operating businesses within and near the G20 security zone.

      Comments

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      26 Comments

      Camero409

      Jun 27, 2010 at 5:43pm

      Well the Nazi's have had their meetings and suspended human rights while they attended. What else is new? It seems that the Corporate agenda remains intact and rights and freedoms take a back seat.

      Schmitter

      Jun 27, 2010 at 5:43pm

      Amnesty International Canada put out a press release, a paragraph states;

      "In connection with the G20 leaders summit, the heavy police and security presence that has permeated the city for several days, as well as acts of vandalism and other violence by numbers of individuals, have contributed to an atmosphere of apprehension and fearfulness that has led many individuals to refrain from or limit their involvement in peaceful demonstrations and other activities."

      I saw peaceful demonstrations all week long, including Sunday. I saw about two hours on Saturday. Then I saw about 12 hours of vandalism.

      Amnesty International Canada should have looked outside the windows instead of preparing such a silly press release.

      Timothy Schwinghamer

      Jun 27, 2010 at 6:07pm

      this was not worded carefully. The protesters were not violent. The destruction of inanimate objects is not violent. Only hurting other sentient beings is violent. Furthermore, the burning police cars which have filled the tv media, were actually left by police with the doors open in the middle of the street, as if asking to be lit.

      Kathy

      Jun 27, 2010 at 6:48pm

      Police did not leave windows open, the windows were smashed out by the violent protesters, who then lit the cars on fire. The saddest part about this whole situation and the crazy amount of security, is the violent protesters created the need for such levels of police presence. To say that destroying public property is not violent, seem very short sighted. Destruction of public property leads to aggressive behaviour, and only grows from there. The peaceful protesters would have had so much more impact if the violent idiots had stayed home!

      Mike Johnson

      Jun 27, 2010 at 8:47pm

      While on the subject of democratic rights and freedoms Amnesty should have condemned the Toronto Police refusal to rule out the use of agent provocateurs. They should have also demanded an investigation into the identities of the vandals to ascertain whether they were genuine protesters or agent provocateurs like the ones the cops used at Montebello 2007, Seattle 1999, Genoa 2001, Miami 2003, Denver 2008 etc. I would like an investigation into why the police chose to drive three vehicles into the middle of a group of protesters and then abandon them, where they were set on fire by (alleged) protesters and why there was no attempt to put out the flames until the media had been given time to record the scenes for broadcast around the world.

      Beth

      Jun 27, 2010 at 9:27pm

      The police cars asking to be lit? Yikes. I shudder to imagine what other things in this world you erroneously, childishly, and recklessly perceive as inviting abuse.
      Beth

      Strategis

      Jun 27, 2010 at 10:01pm

      Some of the Black Bloc are sincere protestors, whereas some may be police paid agent provocateurs, like the ones caught and unmasked in Quebec. The police and other government paid agitators are in the business of taking actions like assassinating people, setting off bombs, and funding terrorist organisations, in order to justify the Orwellian police state agenda that has been evident for many years in Canada, the USA, Europe, and worldwide. This occurence by the Black Bloc and agent provocateurs of minor vandalism as a means of political protest is employed by the government, police, and the embedded media to justify their attacks on constitutional rights of Canadians, police violence, and absurdly overblown security operations.

      The Black Bloc may or may not be employing an effective strategy, but nevertheless their rationale for disapproving of corporate and government crime is legitimate. Government and corporate property damage, devastation of the environment, extermination of animal species, disruption of the ecosystem, erosion of democracy, terrorism and violence is running rampant, and unfortunately the members of the Black Bloc are one of the few groups which is rankled enough to risk their asses to draw attention to it. I have to respect that about them. I wish they could find a better strategy, though, because so many people who are brainwashed by the corporate media focus on their petty vandalism and ignore the real crimes that the media whitewashes daily.

      The government of Canada has wasted $2 billion on ridiculous overblown security operations in just six months this year already - at the Vancouver Olympics and the G20 meeting. This has to end. These costs are obscene, and cannot be justified. Also, the cost to our civil liberties is even worse. I propose a bill be tabled making any government meeting or government sponsored event where the security costs exceed $25 million be held on offshore army bases or on military ships in international waters. If the international elite want to have their undemocratic staged meetings, then they should be held on their own turf, not on Canadian soil, or on any soil where democracy is effective. Or they could just hold teleconferences, and skip the pretense that they represent the people of the world, illicit any respect from anyone, or have any legitimacy.

      Morty

      Jun 27, 2010 at 11:02pm

      The Black Bloc "risk[s] their asses to draw attention"? No they don't! They hide behind masks, then use legitimate protestors and passers-by as human shields. If they had the courage to stand behind their convictions, they wouldn't hide their identities as they commit acts of violence. (And yes, I do consider property damage to be an act of violence. If I smashed your front window out, would you think it harmless?)

      Falun Gong risks their asses. The Black Bloc? Hardly.