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Amnesty issues G8 warning

G8 security
A coast guard boat on patrol near a surface-to-air missile launcher at Genoa airport  


GENOA, Italy -- A human rights group has warned Italian authorities against using heavy-handed tactics to prevent demonstrations during the G8 summit in Italy

Italian security chiefs are preparing for potentially violent protests in Genoa and are on heightened alert after a letter bomb exploded in a police station on Monday.

Similar gatherings of international bodies, such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, have seen protesters with agendas as diverse as global warming to third world debt clashing with police.

A host of leading Western leaders will attend the G8 in Genoa but the summit is also expected to attract up to 100,000 anti-globalisation protesters.

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Italian authorities have warned protesters heading for the summit -- which starts on Friday and runs until Sunday -- that they will crack down on any violence.

It has begun implementing a series of stringent security measures both inside and outside the city.

But in a statement criticising Italian handling of recent protests, as well as other nations' security measures during similar international meetings, Amnesty said police actions must not violate human rights laws.

It listed restrictions on police use of weapons, demonstrators' rights of expression and assembly, bans on arbitrary arrests and rights in custody as measures that would be scrutinised during the summit.

"Amnesty International does not condone violence aimed at police or property, nor does it oppose the lawful use of reasonable force by law enforcement officials," the statement said.

"However, policing must be carried out in such a way as to protect the rights of people engaged in peaceful protest."

Tension has been heightened after two bomb incidents in the host city on Monday raised the spectre of possible terrorist attacks.

Brief outline of Genoa G8 security:
- About $110 million has been spent on hosting summit.
- At least 15,000 police and military troops deployed.
- Police will wear anti-riot gear and be equipped with live ammunition, rubber bullets, tear gas, armoured personnel carriers and water cannons.
- Surface-to-air missiles will be in place, while fighter jets, naval ships and minesweepers will be used.
- A ?Red Zone? which will ostensibly be closed to everyone apart from delegates and residents will be set up. Twelve foot barriers to be erected.
- Rail, road and airport links will be shut, the port cleared and border controls patrolled.
- ?Yellow Zone? will act as buffer zone around the red zone.
- U.S. President George W. Bush will not stay with other world leaders because of fear of terrorist attack.
- Metal detectors, sniffer dogs and agents will stand guard at the luxury cruiser housing the leaders.

A car bomb in Genoa was disarmed, but a letter bomb sent to a police station injured an officer who was burned when he opened it.

Following the incidents, police raided the headquarters of left wing groups in Genoa and four other Italian cities on Tuesday.

Italy's interior ministry said raids were carried out in Torino, Milan, Padova, Bologna, and Genoa, during which police seized potential weapons.

The government has set up a wide-reaching security system for the summit, including at least 15,000 policeman, army, navy servicemen at a cost of up to $110 million.

Genoa police have begun installing iron gratings to block entrances to the restricted access areas for the summit of G8 nations -- made up of the U.S. Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, plus Russia.

The city's airport, harbour, train stations and main road routes are to be closed, jails are being emptied to make room for possible arrests of anti-globalisation protesters.

"It looks like we're at war," local resident Attilio Cipollina told the Associated Press.

Italy has also reintroduced border controls, while German state of Bavaria is expected to follow suit from Wednesday.

More than 1,500 protesters have already arrived in Genoa, with a massive influx of people expected on Wednesday, according to the Genoa Social Forum, an umbrella organisation which includes about 700 groups.






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