The Relevance of the UN Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons
Current protests in the United States (US) and elsewhere, or measures taken in the context of the COVID-19 show the relevance of the United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement.
This document – the outcome of research and broad consultations carried out under the auspices of the Geneva Academy and the University of Pretoria and its Centre for Human Rights – provides direction on what constitutes lawful and responsible design, production, transfer, procurement, testing, training, deployment, and use of less-lethal weapons and related equipment.
As recent protests in the US but also elsewhere – Hong Kong, Iraq or Chile to cite a few –demonstrate, use of force during assemblies can raise major challenges under international human rights law.
In these contexts, law enforcement officials frequently use less-lethal weapons – such as police batons, chemical irritants like pepper spray and tear gas, electroshock weapons such as TASER, and water cannon. These are defined in the Guidance as weapons whose ordinary use offers a substantially reduced risk of death when compared to conventional firearms.
In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post, Agnes Callamard, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, precisely refers to the UN Guidance and its relevance to the current US protests and response by the security forces.
‘This new Guidance, issued in 2019, meets an important need. It provides crucial guidance to states and law enforcement agencies, private security companies, police oversight bodies, and human rights defenders regarding the lawful use of less-lethal weapons’ underlines Professor Marco Sassòli, Director of the Geneva Academy.
Elvert Xavier Barnes Protest Photography
In an EJIL:Talk blog post, Abi Dymond and Neil Corney – two experts who participated in the Academic Working Group we’ve put in place to help the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights develop the Guidance – discuss the relevance of the UN Guidance to the measures taken in relation to the COVID-10 pandemic.
‘Their article notably shows the relevance of the UN Guidance in contexts where law enforcement agencies are tasked with enforcing lockdowns, quarantine and social distancing measures’ underlines Professor Sassòli.
Elvert Barnes Photography>
In their blog post, Abi Dymond and Neil Corney also highlight that the UN Guidance has already been referred to by oversight and human rights bodies, states and other actors worldwide, including in Chile, Georgia, Hong Kong, Iraq, Jamaica and elsewhere.
‘It is very encouraging to see that this document, which is not even one-year-old, has already been referred to in so many different contexts and by different actors. This is exactly what our research aims at: to make it relevant for, known and used by those who should apply it. We expect that more and more civil society organizations but also law enforcement agencies and oversight and human rights bodies will refer to it and use it in order to ensure the appropriate use of force and accountability’ stresses Professor Sassòli.
‘This June, the UN Human Rights Council will debate its biennial resolution on peaceful protest and we hope that the UN Guidance will be equally helpful and reflected in this document and discussions around peaceful protests’ adds Felix Kirchmeier, Executive Director of the Geneva Human Rights Platform.
Elvert Barnes Photography
European Action External Service
Sima Samar, former Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, will deliver the keynote speech at the 2021 Annual Conference of the Geneva Human Rights Platform.
In around 20 pages students of our LLM and MAS in Transitional Justice investigated a subject of special interest to them and deepened their knowledge and expertise through research as well as exchanges with experts, scholars and practitioners.
In this online event co-organized with the ATLAS Network, prominent women in international law will share their experience and advice through an interactive discussion.
This event aims at promoting the use of the new Guidelines for Lawyers in Support to Peaceful Assemblies within legal professions.
This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, 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.
Dustan Woodhouse, Unplash
This training course will explore the major international and regional instruments for the promotion of human rights, as well as with their implementation and enforcement mechanisms; and provide practical insights into the different UN human rights mechanisms pertinent to advancing environmental issues and protecting environmental human rights defenders.
Resulting from traditional legal research and informal interviews with experts, the project aims at examining how – if at all possible – IHL could be more systematically, appropriately and correctly dealt with by the human rights mechanisms emanating from the Charter of the United Nations, as well from universal and regional treaties.
UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré