Macedonia Allows Police to Use Rubber Bullets

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons/Mustafa Bader

With the support of 59 of the 122 deputies in parliament, Macedonia on Monday adopted changes to the Police Law allowing police to use rubber bullets to disperse violent crowds.

The police will now be allowed to use rubber bullets, stun guns and shock grenades if protesters who "violate the public order do not disperse on the call of the police".

Deputy Police Minister Zemri Kamili told parliament that police will be instructed to target protestors "in their lower extremities" to avoid causing severe injuries.

The police say the measures are nothing new in practice but only serve to codify what is already in use.

"Their codification according to the legal provisions that regulate this segment of police work is necessary and significant," the Interior Ministry wrote in an explanation submitted to parliament.

In theory, until now, Macedonian police could only disperse crowds with batons, tear gas, water cannons and dogs.

The change was adopted without the presence of the opposition MPs who have boycotted parliament since the March April 2014 early general and presidential elections, claiming the ruling parties won them by fraud.

One professor, speaking off the record, said the introduction of rubber bullets was worrying. "Credible studies show that they are not safe and can cause lasting injuries and even death. Even Britain, which... used them extensively in Northern Ireland, banned their use in the 1970s after fatalities occurred," the professor, from the Faculty of Security in Skopje, told Balkan Insight.

"With the growing number of protests of late, I fear this will only encourage the police to use these measures more frequently," the same source added.

The change follow rising...

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