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Following the Army Corps of Engineers’ announcement that construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline will be delayed pending further analysis, Amnesty International USA urged authorities to respect the rights of those gathered in opposition to the pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Members of the Indigenous community and others opposed to the pipeline have vowed to remain at the campsites that have been established near the construction areas through the winter. AIUSA sent its third delegation of human rights observers to the area today to monitor activities on a National Day of Action against the pipeline. The organization called on over a million members and supporters in the U.S. to take action by contacting the Morton County Sheriff’s Office to ensure that human rights are protected.

“The police have a duty to respect everyone’s rights, and that includes the right to free expression,” said Eric Ferrero, director of communications for Amnesty International USA. “The people here are not enemies on the battlefield. Meeting them with military-grade force, as we have seen on previous visits, is an inappropriate response.”     

AIUSA sent human rights observers to the area in August and October and has sent multiple letters to law enforcement demanding they respect international human rights standards on the policing of protests, with no response so far. The organization also asked the DOJ to investigate the policing practices there.

“Our staff is on the ground to observe the interactions between law enforcement and the people gathered in opposition to the pipeline to make sure everyone’s rights are protected,” said Ferrero. “They are gathering information from the community and from law enforcement. We remain concerned by what we have seen and heard over the months of monitoring this situation and will stay vigilant as long as we are needed.”

Under International law and standards, everyone has the right to express their opinion through peaceful public assembly, and law enforcement must facilitate,  rather than restrict,this right. In the policing of non-violent protests, police must avoid the use of force. Any amount of force used to disperse a protest must be necessary and proportionate. Arrests should not be used to intimidate or prevent people from participating in peaceful assembly. If individuals are arrested, they should not be restrained for prolonged periods of time, and should be treated humanely.

Amnesty International has a history of monitoring protests and police conduct to ensure adherence to international human rights standards. In addition to North Dakota, AIUSA has deployed delegations of observers to Ferguson and Baltimore to monitor protests in the wake of police killings, as well as to Cleveland and Philadelphia to monitor the protests outside the Republican and Democratic National Conventions earlier this year.