French ophthalmologists demand Macron ban rubber bullets as eye injuries spread like ‘EPIDEMIC’
As the Yellow Vest protests enter their 17th consecutive week, the debate around the government’s alleged use of excessive force continues to gain momentum. On Saturday, the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche published a letter to President Macron written by the country’s 35 leading ophthalmologists, in which they asserted that the police’s use of rubber bullets has led to an “epidemic of serious eye injuries.”Also on rt.com ‘I do not recognize my country’: Yellow Vests who have lost eyes, limbs demand justice from Macron
Many people risk losing their vision, doctors say, hinting that the current dismal developments are no coincidence as rubber balls fly with great force and are often directed inaccurately. The letter, which demands “a moratorium” on using rubber bullets, was actually written in early February but only made public a month later to make sure the recipient gets the message, according the newspaper.
French riot police have become notorious for using hand-held guns, locally known as defence-ball launchers or Flash-Balls, during the protests that been ongoing since November.
The currently deployed model – named LBD 40 – fires 40mm foam projectiles, roughly the size of a golf ball. Rubber bullets have apparently become the police’s primary means of combating unruly crowds, and have been deployed more than 13,000 times, according to local officials.
The controversial weapon has landed the French government in hot water as reports of people losing their eyes in skirmishes with police began to surface. More than 20 protesters have lost eyes, five hands have been partially or entirely torn off, and one person lost their hearing as a result of a TNT-stuffed GLI F4 stun grenade.Also on rt.com UN human rights rep demands ‘full investigation’ on France's ‘excessive force’ against Yellow Vests
The legal status of rubber-ball guns has been repeatedly questioned by human rights associations and politicians in France and abroad. In early February, France’s top administrative court, however, refused to ban the police from using the hand-held launchers.
Meanwhile, the country’s interior security code allows police to use force to dispel violent crowds but only when no other means suffice.
On Wednesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for a “full investigation” of France’s excessive use of force towards the Yellow Vests who, according to her words, demand a “respectful dialogue.”
Government figures show that over 2,000 protesters and over 1,000 police officers have been injured since protests broke out in November.
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