United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement

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.

Promoting Lawful Use and Accountability

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.

Research and Consultations under the Auspices of the Geneva Academy and the University of Pretoria

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.

NEWS AND EVENTS

A police officer during a demonstration News

New Human Rights Guidance on the Use of Less-Lethal Weapons

October 2019

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) is the outcome of research and broad consultations carried out under the auspices of the Geneva Academy and the University of Pretoria.

Read more >

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Nepal, Farmers plant crops along the Baglung-Bartibang road. News

New Research Brief on Peasants’ Right to Land and Other Natural Resources

November 2020

Our new Research Brief The Right to Land and Other Natural Resources details the content of this right, states’ obligations, as well as accountability mechanisms for its enforcement at national, regional and international levels.

Read more

Police officer stands before road blocks News

Experts Discuss the Effectiveness and Legality of Counterterrorism Measures

November 2020

Co-organized with the Counter-Terror Pro LegEm Project, the meeting examined the effectiveness of measures to prevent and counter terrorism – closure of places of worship, vague prohibitions of ‘glorification of terrorism’, stop-and-search operations – and their impact on human rights.

Read more

A wide view of the UN Security Council Short Course

Sanctions in Public International Law

19 February - March 2021

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, provides an introduction to the regime of sanctions under international law and their effectiveness in addressing contemporary forms of conflict. It addresses the questions related to state responsibility, the pacific settlement of international disputes and the role of the International Court of Justice.

Read more

Yemen,  Sana'a, Faj Attan district. Destruction. Short Course

From Use of Force to Responsibility to Protect

16 April - May 2021

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, provides an overview of the evolution of the rules governing the use of force in international law, focusing on military intervention on humanitarian grounds and the creation of the United Nations collective security system. It then addresses the concept of the responsibility to protect.

Read more

Séléka rebels patrol in the town of Bria, Central African Republic (CAR). Project

Human Rights Responsibilities and Armed Non-State Actors

Started in June 2018

This research aims at building a common understanding and vision as to how states and the relevant parts of the UN system can provide a concrete and practical framework to address human rights responsibilities of armed non-state actors.

Read more

A session of the UN Human Rights Committtee at Palais Wilson Project

Implementing International Humanitarian Law Through Human Rights Mechanisms

Started in April 2019

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.

Read more

Cover page of the guide Publication

The Right to Land and the UNDROP

published on December 2020

Christophe Golay

Read more