UN condemns abuse of Standing Rock water protesters

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association Maina Kiai issued a blistering condemnation on November 15 of the militarised response to the Standing Rock water protectors’ peaceful protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“Marking people with numbers and detaining them in overcrowded cages, on the bare concrete floor, without being provided with medical care, amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment,” said Kiai. “The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is an individual right, and it cannot be taken away indiscriminately or en masse.”

Kiai suggested that the use of less-lethal munitions such as “rubber bullets, tear gas, mace, compression grenades and bean-bag rounds” against peaceful protestors who are “expressing concerns over environmental impact and trying to protect burial grounds and other sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe” is reason enough to halt the pipeline’s construction.

“I call on the Pipeline Company to pause all construction activity within 20 miles east and west of Lake Oahe,” said Kiai.

The land defence action at Standing Rock continues as the Army Corps of Engineers announced it needs more time to study and consult with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe before making a final decision about granting crucial easement permits that would allow construction of the pipeline to continue.

Kiai’s report was issued on the same day as hundreds of protests — including demonstrations and blockades of related pipeline infrastructure — took place across the US in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. More than 400 arrests have been made since the land and water defence action began in April.

“This is a troubling response to people who are taking action to protect natural resources and ancestral territory in the face of profit-seeking activity,” Kiai continued.

“The excessive use of State security apparatus to suppress protest against corporate activities that are alleged to violate human rights is wrong and contrary to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”

Kelcey Warren, who is the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the company in charge of the project, said he is “100%” confident that construction will continue. Warren was a major donor to the campaign of President-elect Donald Trump, who himself has significant investments in the project.

Kiai’s report was endorsed by other high-ranking UN officials, including special rapporteurs on drinking water, the environment, free speech, cultural rights and the rights of indigenous peoples.

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]