US authorities are using excessive force [press release] against protesters in North Dakota who are trying to halt a proposed oil pipeline project, according to a UN human rights expert on Tuesday. According to Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, about 400 people have been detained in “inhuman and degrading conditions.” Protesters are have reportedly been confronted with rubber bullets, tear gas, mace, compression grenades and bean-bag rounds. If detained they are reportedly marked with a number and held in overcrowded cages lined with concrete flooring. Kiai labeled these responses by local security forces as “militarized.” With construction nearing the Missouri River and other sacred sites already demolished, protesters have made their presence more known. Kiai said, “[t]his is a troubling response to people who are taking action to protect natural resources and ancestral territory in the face of profit-seeking activity. 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.”
The pipeline, known as the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), would run near land sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe [tribe website]. The project would transport crude oil from Bakken/Three Forks oil fields to Illinois thus crossing four states. Energy Transfer Partners [corporate website] petitioned a federal court [press release] on Tuesday to grant permission to begin construction in this location, claiming delays have already cost them up $100 million already. In September a UN human rights expert urged the US government to halt the construction [press release] of the DAPL out of respect for the rights of affected Native Americans [JURIST report]. In the same month, the North Dakota pipeline’s construction was suspended [JURIST report] after the US Departments of Justice, Interior and Army [official websites] released a joint statement [text] on the need to reconsider the pipeline’s effect on the neighboring Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.