United Nations human rights experts are calling on the United States to investigate and consider prosecuting jail officials in four states for the “infliction of severe pain and suffering” from the use of Tasers on inmates, Reuters reports.
“In my view, all of the incidents … require independent investigation and most of them are likely to merit prosecution. Clearly gratuitous infliction of severe pain and suffering … constitutes a grave violation of human dignity and of the universal code of conduct for law enforcement officials,” said Nils Melzer, the U.N. special rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, after viewing footage of multiple incidents from an exclusive Reuters report.
The news agency identified 104 cases of inmates who died after being shocked with Tasers while in custody at jails in Ohio, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Only two of the inmates were armed when tasered, and nearly 80 percent of them had not been convicted of a crime. About one-third of them were handcuffed or restrained in some fashion when jail officials shocked them. Many others were pinned to the ground by officers when tasered.
Jens Modvig, chairman of the U.N. Committee against Torture, said the documented cases are examples of “blatant abuse” that may violate laws, such as the U.N. Convention against Torture that the United States has signed. Franklin County Ohio officials said guards in their jail were cleared of any wrongdoing by the U.S. Department of Justice when several inmates filed a civil lawsuit from Taser incidents. One of the plaintiffs was Martini Smith who, in 2009, was shocked with a Taser, which caused her to have a miscarriage. Prison guards tasered her because she failed to comply with their order to remove a tongue piercing that was difficult to remove.