Dear Sheriff Kirchmeier,
I am writing to urge you to respect the human rights of Indigenous people and all others gathered near Standing Rock in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The U.S. government is obligated under international law to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of Indigenous people, including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. It is the legitimate right of people to peacefully express their opinion. Public assemblies should not be considered as the “enemy”.
• The command hierarchy must convey a clear message to law enforcement officials that their task is to facilitate and not to restrict a peaceful public assembly.
• Refrain from outfitting officers in riot gear when policing the Dakota Access Pipeline protests unless strictly necessary.
• The decision to disperse an assembly should be taken in line with the principles of necessity and proportionality, and only when there are no other means available to protect public order from an imminent risk of violence.
• Where a small minority tries to turn a peaceful assembly into a violent one, law enforcement officials should protect the peaceful protesters and not use the violent acts of a few as a pretext to restrict or impede the exercise of the rights of a majority.
• The type of equipment used to disperse an assembly must be carefully considered and used only when necessary, proportional and lawful. Chemical irritants, such as tear gas or pepper spray, should not be used where people are confined in an area and not in a way that can cause lasting harm. Chemical irritants should also not be used against people in water.
• Arrest and detention should be carried out only in accordance with procedures established by law, and should not be used as a means to prevent peaceful participation in a public assembly nor as a means of intimidation or punishment for participation.
• If individuals are arrested, officers should not use restraints in an excessive manner or for prolonged periods of time during processing, and anyone arrested should be provided with food and water, access to restrooms, medical attention if needed, and prompt access to counsel.
• Intrusive searches, including strip and body cavity searches, should be undertaken only if absolutely necessary, and should be conducted in private by trained staff of the same sex as the prisoner. Strip searches and invasive body cavity searches carried out in a humiliating manner can constitute torture or other ill treatment; authorities are encouraged to develop and use appropriate alternatives to intrusive searches.
Finally, I support the call for a federal investigation into the policing of protests and the camps by your office and other law enforcement agencies.
Lombard, IL 60148