“Don’t Tase Me, Frère Jacques!”

The taser, that “electroshock weapon” that has already made it’s mark (but not literally, one would hope) in a handful of high-profile incidents in the US, recently crossed the Atlantic to enter service in France. Already in use by the national police, a decree from the Ministry of the Interior of last 22 September authorized them for use by local police forces.

But now something in the way of resistance is popping up. As the Nouvel Observateur reports (no by-line), a French NGO has filed an official request to have that 22 September decree nullified. Specifically, that NGO is “The Network for Alert and Intervention for Human Rights,” known by its French initials as “RAIDH.” Now, RAIDH has already found itself dragged into a court case by the company “SMP Technologies – Taser France” for allegedly having financed the activities of one Olivier Besancenot, whose political position is that of spokesman for the extreme-leftist League of Communist Revolutionaries, and who is currently on trial before a French court for defaming SMP Technologies by claiming that the taser has already been responsible for 150 deaths in the US. (“Espionage” is another charge Besancenot is on trial for; that was presumably also directed against SMP Technologies, but I can’t find much in the way of further details.)

In any event, the grounds for RAIDH’s annulment petition, as enunciated by spokesman Fabrice Ferrier, seem straightforward enough: “This arm, which discharges 50,000 volts, had not been subject to any independent medical study in France and contravenes fundamental human rights such as the respect for human dignity and the prohibition of torture.” And indeed, Amnesty International is then quoted in the article to the effect that the taser has been responsible for not 150, but rather 290 deaths in the US since 2001. Spokesman Ferrier went on in his statement to urge France’s mayors to declare their jurisdictions “no-taser zones.”

On the other hand, France’s Service d’aide médicale urgente or SAMU – basically, the country’s ambulance corps – issued a study in September, 2007, which declared the taser to be safe “when usage precautions are strictly respected.” It’s further interesting that RAIDH is going after the government’s taser permission as granted to local governments, which has nothing to do with the national gendarmerie which already was so equipped. Are tasers in the hands of the gendarmes then to be construed as OK? Or will the RAIDH eventually have those in its sights, too, if successful with this legal move?

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