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Friday, April 24, 2009

Austrian Justice Minister reintroduces taser guns

April 24, 2009
By Thomas Hochwarter, Austrian Times

People’s Party (ÖVP) Justice Minister Claudia Bandion-Ortner has given the green light for taser guns to be used in prisons after a one year ban on the weapons.

Taser guns were introduced in Austria in November 2004 and have been used since summer 2005. But Bandion-Ortner’s predecessor Maria Berger of the Social Democrats banned them in February 2008 after protests by human rights organisations.

Bandion-Ortner though has said the weapon as a help to ensure security within prisons and yesterday (Thurs) she announced that trained wardens will be allowed to use the weapon.

There are two taser guns in every Austrian prison, the minister added.

Taser guns have a range of seven metres and can shoot dart-like electrodes into a person’s body that will transfer an electric current into it to produce what manufacturer Taser International calls "neuromuscular incapacitation."

Use of Tasers has been criticised after a number of deaths. Amnesty International claims 334 people died between 2001 and August 2008 in the United States after being shot by the stun-guns. The organisation says the use of Tasers can cause nausea, cramps, loss of consciousness, involuntary defecation and heart-rhythm disturbances.

Bandion-Ortner said there will be new, stricter rules regarding their use which meet the recommendations of Amnesty International.

The minister explained that new rules include that the "tasered" person be examined by a doctor afterwards.

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