ACLU challenges Puerto Rico protest law

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Tuesday filed a lawsuit challenging a new Puerto Rican law that limits the rights of protesters in the commonwealth. The new law, approved by Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuno last week, bans certain kinds of protests and includes penalties of up to three years in prison for some violations. The complaint alleges that the language of the new statute is vague and could lead to uneven application of the law. The ACLU filed the challenge as an amendment [WP report] to a prior complaint [text, PDF; JURIST report] against the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) [official website, in Spanish] alleging that they violated the rights of protesters. The original lawsuit was filed just after the ACLU released a report alleging widespread abuses [JURIST report] by the PRPD. The report documents numerous instances of excessive use of force to suppress speech, subdue protesters, and target ethnic and racial minorities. The amended complaint also calls on the PRPD to create a comprehensive policy on the use of force against protesters.

Police abuse is a subject of international concern. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported [JURIST report] in May that China's chengguan, a para-police organization charged with enforcing non-criminal administrative regulations, is abusing its power. In April HRW alleged that Bahrain's police officers regularly abuse minor detainees [JURIST report] before transporting them to police stations. Last October the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported that prisoners in some Afghan-run detention facilities had been beaten and tortured [JURIST report]. In June 2011 HRW reported that Iraqi police forces had been beating and illegally detaining protesters [JURIST report].

 

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