Use of rubber bullets in detention center incident against Law Enforcement Act (1)

Harku Detention Center for illegal immigrants (Postimees/Scanpix)
5/4/2016 1:57 PM
Source: BNS, ERR
Category: News

In an incident at the Harku detention center in November 2015 rubber bullets were used against detainees. An internal examination of the events by the police now determined that the use of this kind of force was against the Law Enforcement Act.

According to Eesti Ekspress, police personnel at the detention center approached a Congolese man with a judge's decision to extend the man's detention by two months. The detainee refused to sign the paper on the grounds that he did not understand the text written in Estonian.

The conflict allegedly turned violent as other detainees stepped in and refused to vacate the dining and recreation area and go to their rooms.

At the time of the incident, more than 30 detainees were on that floor of the center, the police were outnumbered and feared that a riot would break out. They resolved the situation by force, which included the use of rubber bullets.

“Experts took the stance that the use of a firearm, although loaded with rubber bullets, was not consistent with the Law Enforcement Act," Valdo Põder, head of the law enforcement office and crisis management team at the North prefecture of the Police and Border Guard Board, said in a press release.

An internal examination of the events by the police established based on CCTV footage that the person eventually hit by a rubber bullet stood calmly in one place during the episode that lasted a couple of seconds, and that there was no waving of hands or shouting.

“The police officer had to decide within a fraction of a second whether the situation that had lasted for more than two hours could escalate without interference, and he chose a more forceful way to resolve the situation. It is also clear when examining the course of the events afterwards that better movement of information and clearer management would have helped make that decision," Põder said.

Following negotiations that lasted more than two hours, some detainees still refused to go to their rooms. Following this, a rapid response unit of the police arrived. An officer fired a warning shot aimed at the floor, the bullet ricocheted and hit one of the detainees’ leg.

After the protest was broken up, the detainees were taken to the dining hall, checked, and then taken back to their rooms one by one, Põder said.

Mikk Salu, journalist with Eesti Ekspress, said in ETV’s “Terevisioon” on Wednesday morning that not only did the police make several errors managing the situation, but they also equivocated on the matter and even lied.

In November, the Police and Border Guard’s press office had talked about “several dozen” protesters, and that the detainees hadn’t calmed down until the police’s rapid response units arrived. It now turned out that the number of protesters was lower, and that the situation had calmed down by the time they made it to the detention center.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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