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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

FRANCE: African immigrant's death by Taser sparks debate

(GIN)—The killing of an African immigrant last week by French police armed with Taser electric stun guns has revived a debate over use of the deadly weapon.

The immigrant, from Mali, whose name has not been released, died after Parisian police shot him twice with a Taser, tear-gassed and struck him with a night stick. Police said the 38-year-old man had attacked officers with a hammer after being asked for identity papers.

French prosecutors have ordered an inquiry to determine the exact cause of death.

The use of the Taser which fires darts carrying a 50,000 volt shock, has caused controversy around the world. A five-year study in Australia published in October found that police there had used Taser guns against people with mental illness in a disproportionately high number of cases.

In June, a Canadian inquiry ruled that officers were not justified in using a Taser gun five times on a Polish immigrant at Vancouver airport in 2007.

“A Taser has never killed anyone,” the director of the Taser’s French subsidiary, Antoine di Zazzo, told the news agency AFP.

Opposition to Tasers is mounting, lead by the French group RAIDH (Intervention Network for Human Rights) and in the U.N. where the Committee against Torture has expressed concern that “the use of these weapons can cause acute pain, constituting a form of torture, and in some cases it can even cause death.”

Amnesty International has also documented more than 351 individual deaths by police Tasering in the U.S. alone since June 2001. Most of the victims were not carrying a weapon.

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