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The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) condemns the use of Deadly Force by Law Enforcement against Standing Rock Water Protectors, calls for additional UN action

- 24 Novembre 2016

The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) condemns the use of Deadly Force by Law Enforcement against Standing Rock Water Protectors, calls for additional UN action
Minneapolis, Minnesota United States: The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) offers this statement on the occasion of today’s press conference to provide updates on the condition of Ms. Sophia Wilansky. She was injured as a result of deadly force used by Morton County North Dakota Sherriff’s Department against water protectors from the Oceti Sakowin Standing Rock Camp on the night of November 20th, 2016. IITC, first and foremost, offers our thoughts for her and her family, and our prayers for her recovery. 

Ms. Wilansky’s arm was severely injured when she was reportedly struck by a concussion grenade fired at several hundred unarmed water defenders opposing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  The multi-billion dollar oil pipeline threatens the water, Treaty rights and sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.  Due to the severity of her injuries, Ms. Wilansky, who is 21, was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis where she has undergone several hours of surgery.  IITC Board member Lisa Bellanger, based in Minneapolis, is in close contact with the family and we will continue to monitor her condition in that way.    

In addition to concussion grenades, North Dakota law enforcement also used high pressure water cannons, mace, tear gas and rubber bullets against the water defenders who were attempting to cross a bridge near the DAPL construction site. Many suffered from hypothermia as a result of cold water directed at them at high velocity in sub-freezing temperatures with potentially life-threatening effects.

The IITC considers these actions as constituting use of deadly force. New reports indicate that over 300 water protectors were injured in this incident, and 27 were taken to hospitals including some with broken bones and head injuries. Photos, videos and eyewitness accounts were widely circulated on social and other media. The IITC strongly condemns this escalating violence used against peaceful human, Treaty and environmental rights defenders opposing the DAPL.

The IITC has reported this latest incident and the escalation of police violence it represents to the United Nations (UN) human rights system including the UN Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders, Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, members of the UN Working Group on Human Rights and Multinational Corporations, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. IITC has requested that UN human rights bodies immediately contact the United States government to call for an immediate halt to the increasing human rights violations including the use of deadly force against these unarmed defenders.

As a result of information and reports submitted by IITC which documented the actions of law enforcement at Standing Rock up to that time, on November 15th 2016 the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Peaceful Assembly Mr. Maina Kiai issued a statement, reported in the Washington Post, Indian Country Today and the UN Press, calling the use of the tactics used by “law enforcement officials, private security firms and the North Dakota National Guard up to that time as “unjustified” and “excessive force”. However, the tactics used in the November 20th incident far exceeded those used previously which were addressed by the Rapporteur. 

IITC worked with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST) to organize an official visit by Grand Chief Edward John, member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in late October to observe the continued impacts of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) construction such as threats to water, Treaty rights and sacred areas. His report included the escalating levels of repression, violence and intimidation against Tribal members and their supporters by state law enforcement, private security and the National Guard. Roberto Borrero representing the IITC accompanied him as a human rights observer.

IITC and the SRST also submitted two joint urgent actions to the UN Human Rights system, including four UN Special Rapporteurs, in August and September of this year. This submission highlighted a number of human rights violations and requested that these UN human rights mandate holders call upon the United States to uphold its commitment, including to the Tribes’ right to Free Prior and Informed Consent, under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty. Primary concerns expressed by the SRST included the potential devastating effects on the Missouri River, its primary water source as well as on sacred sites and burial grounds. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has also extended an invitation to Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of indigenous Peoples, which is currently in process.

IITC has also recently received very disturbing reports of suspected pesticides or other toxic chemicals being sprayed over the Oceti Sakowin camp, possibly by airplanes during the night, causing immediate health effects. The use of chemicals by private individuals or law enforcement has not been confirmed, but a growing number of on-site reports indicate that there is cause for serious concern. IITC calls on local law enforcement, the State of North Dakota, the United States Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency to determine if such chemicals have been used in this way, obtain samples of suspicious droplets found on vehicles and tents, and report their chemical contents and known or suspected heath impacts without delay. Such applications in this situation, including exposure of the many children in the camp, may constitute the use of chemical weapons under international law. This must be investigated, confirmed or denied without delay.

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