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ACLU files lawsuit against Puerto Rico police department

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP [websites] on Wednesday filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] against the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) [official website, in Spanish] alleging that they violated the rights of protesters. The lawsuit comes a week after the ACLU released a report alleging widespread abuses [JURIST report] by the PRPD. The report documents numerous instances of excessive use of force to suppress speech, subdue protesters, and target ethnic and racial minorities. It also alleges a culture of impunity among the police and a failure to police crimes of abuse and sexual assault. The lawsuit alleges that the PRPD has violated the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution through its continual abuse of protesters and other citizens. The suit seeks an injunction requiring the police to institute a new policy to protect protesters in the territory.

Police abuse is a subject of international concern. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported [JURIST report] in May that China's chengguan, a para-police organization charged with enforcing non-criminal administrative regulations, is abusing its power. In April HRW alleged that Bahrain's police officers regularly abuse minor detainees [JURIST report] before transporting them to police stations. Last October the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported that prisoners in some Afghan-run detention facilities had been beaten and tortured [JURIST report]. In June 2011 HRW reported that Iraqi police forces had been beating and illegally detaining protesters [JURIST report].

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