Amnesty International and the United Nations have announced that they are sending officials to investigate allegations of human rights violations at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.
Amnesty International announced Friday that they were sending a delegation of human rights observers to monitor the response of law enforcement against DAPL protesters after concerns mounted about increasingly violent actions towards the peaceful protesters.
Police have responded to protesters in some instances with pepper spray, bean bags, and other controversial means, and used private security staff with guard dogs in one confrontation with protesters that included women and children. Amnesty International also reports that those recently arrested have reported being strip searched and forced to pay bail for minor offenses.
Members of the media and legal observers have also been arrested or charged with minor offenses.
Amnesty International sent a letter to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department expressing concern about the degree of force used against the protesters and is calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the police practices being used against them.
“Arrests of protesters, who call themselves water protectors, have increased in recent weeks and law enforcement has employed a more militarized response to protests and encampments near the construction site of the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
The international human rights agency sent a delegation of observers to the area in August. They report that they have stayed in contact both with members of the Standing Rock community and those policing the protests since then.
“Our observers are here to ensure that everyone’s human rights are protected,” said Eric Ferrero, director of communications for Amnesty International USA. “We’re deeply concerned about what we heard during our previous visit to Standing Rock and what has been reported to us since.”
“People here just want to stand up for the rights of Indigenous people and protect their natural resources. These people should not be treated like the enemy. Police must keep the peace using minimal force appropriate to the situation. Confronting men, women, and children while outfitted in gear more suited for the battlefield is a disproportionate response.”
Amnesty International says that under international law and standards, 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. They also added that invasive searches should only be carried out if absolutely necessary and not in a manner that could be considered cruel or humiliating treatment.
The United Nations also announced on Friday that they were sending a delegate to investigate the matter. According to a press release issued by the UN, United Nations expert Grand Chief Edward John arrived at Standing Rock on Saturday to gather information on alleged human rights violations resulting from DAPL pipeline construction.
“As a United Nations (UN) expert, he will be visiting in his official capacity to observe the continued impacts of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) construction such as threats to water, Treaty rights and sacred areas. He will also collect information and testimonies on the escalating levels of repression, violence and intimidation against Tribal members and their supporters by state law enforcement, private security and the National Guard which have been widely reported on social and other media.”
The UN report that a representative of the International Indian Treaty Council will accompany Chief John as a human rights observer and that other UN representatives are already on site.
Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault previously called on the UN to intervene on their behalf.
“Currently, we are experiencing violence and intimidation from state law enforcement, private security as well as the North Dakota National Guard which are moving to forcibly remove us from our encampment located on unceded Treaty lands,” Chief Archambault told the UN. “Over 120 arrests have been made in the last two days, and tear gas, mace, compression grenades and other forms of violence have been used against tribal members and our supporters representing over 300 US Native Nations who are peacefully protecting our human, environmental, and cultural and Treaty rights.”
“Our Tribe can no longer sacrifice our sacred water, our graves and our Mother Earth, and our future generations for the financial gain of private industry which has shown no regard for our rights or concerns,” the chief said.
Members of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation say the pipeline endangers their water supply and desecrates sacred land.
The International Indian Treaty Council says that the DAPL would carry nearly half a billion barrels of crude oil a day and would cross the Missouri River, posing a threat to the tribe’s main water source and sacred places along its path.
[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]