15 October 2019
As recent events in Hong Kong or Iraq demonstrate, use of force during assemblies raises major challenges under international human rights law (IHRL).
While law enforcement officials frequently use less-lethal weapons during assemblies, international guidance on their design, production, procurement, testing, training, transfer, and use was lacking.
The United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – the outcome of research and broad consultations carried out under the auspices of the Geneva Academy and the University of Pretoria – fills this gap.
Less-lethal weapons include police batons, chemical irritants such as pepper spray and tear gas, electroshock weapons such as TASER, and water cannon. They are defined in the Guidance as weapons whose ordinary use offers a substantially reduced risk of death when compared to conventional firearms.
Based on international law, in particular, IHRL and law enforcement rules, as well as good law enforcement practice, the Guidance provides direction on what constitutes lawful and responsible design, production, transfer, procurement, testing, training, deployment, and use of less-lethal weapons and related equipment, and promotes accountability.
It is aimed at a wide range of stakeholders, particularly states and law enforcement agencies, as well as weapon manufacturers, human rights mechanisms, private security companies, police oversight bodies, and human rights defenders, along with individuals seeking a remedy for human rights violations caused by less-lethal weapons.
‘This new Guidance meets an important need. We believe it will prevent unnecessary harm, improve accountability and help to ensure people can protest while being protected against unnecessary or disproportionate harm’ explains Marco Sassòli, Director of the Geneva Academy.
This Guidance is the outcome of research and broad consultations carried out under the auspices of the Geneva Academy and the University of Pretoria, in particular, its Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA) and its Centre for Human Rights.
A group of experts – academics, representatives of United Nations (UN) agencies and other international organizations, UN special procedures mandate-holders, members of UN treaty bodies, law enforcement officials, experts in police oversight, representatives of non-governmental organizations, civil society and manufacturers – helped to draft the Guidance. An inclusive consultation process allowed a broad range of stakeholders to provide input and comment on successive drafts, whether in writing or during expert meetings and consultations in Cambridge, Geneva, and Pretoria.
‘It is a significant step forward that less-lethal weapons and related equipment have become widely available in recent years, as an alternative to, especially, firearms and the technology continues to develop. At the same time, less-lethal weapons can easily be misused or abused. The Guidance is aimed at ensuring that only appropriate force is used, if force is to be used at all’ stresses Christof Heyns, Professor at the University of Pretoria and convenor of the expert group who drafted the Guidance.
The United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons and Related Equipment in Law Enforcement will be launched in Geneva on 25 October 2019 in an event co-organized with OHCHR, the University of Pretoria, and the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN in Geneva.
Olivier Chamard/Geneva Academy
During one day, more than 100 experts, practitioners, academics, diplomats and representatives of NGOs, international organizations and National Human Rights Institutions discussed and debated the connectivity of human rights mechanisms.
The Geneva Academy developed a new tool, the ‘Treaty Body Scheduler’, which allows planning, in the context of a consolidated report and clustered dialogue, the best schedules for treaty bodies sessions.
This event, hosted with the Geneva Center for Business and Human Rights, will discuss business strategies to identify, analyse and resolve risks for modern slavery in global supply chains.
This short course discusses the extent to which states may limit and/or derogate from their international human rights obligations in order to prevent and counter terrorism and thus protect persons under their jurisdiction.
This short course looks at the sources from which public international law rules stem and at the entities that are empowered with the capacity of law-making in the international legal order. It aims at enabling participants to develop a global perception of the international normative system.
We are a partner of the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project, housed at the University of Essex’s Human Rights Centre, which aims to map and analyse the human rights challenges and opportunities presented by the use of big data and associated technologies. It notably examines whether fundamental human rights concepts and approaches need to be updated and adapted to meet the new realities of the digital age.
This research project, aims via the drafting of a practitioners’ guide on human rights and countering corruption, to clarify the conceptual relationship between human rights, good governance and anticorruption, demonstrate the negative impact of corruption on human rights and provide guidance and make practical recommendations for effectively using the UN human rights system in anti-corruption efforts.