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

15 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

Sharon Braekman at the Bains des Pâquis in Geneva News

MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law: What our Students Say

14 February 2022

Sharon Braekman is pursuing a MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law at the Geneva Academy. She tells us about her background, the programme and what it will bring to her career.

Read more

A session of the training course News

Implementing the UPR Recommendations in Syria: A Training Course for the UN Country Team

21 June 2022

Our Geneva Human Rights Platform organized – along with the Syria Offices of UNFPA, UNDP and OHCHR – a customized training course for UN staff in Syria.

Read more

Greece, ylakio, pre-removal center. Short Course

Introduction to International Human Rights Law

Fall 2022

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, will provide participants with an introduction to substantive human rights law. It will start with an introduction to the nature and sources of international human rights law and its place in the international legal system. The course will then provide a presentation of the main principles applicable to substantive rights (jurisdiction, obligation and limitations).

Read more

Plastic pollution Training

Protecting Human Rights and the Environment

12-16 September 2022

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.

Read more

Mine Project

Business, Human Rights and Conflict-Affected Regions

Started in July 2021

This project aims to further identify and clarify policies and practices for States and business, including public and private investors, across the full ‘conflict cycle’ and the ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ pillars of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Read more

Un plate with Rapporteur Spécial written on it Project

Support to UN Special Procedures

Started in June 2020

Read more

Cover of the publication Publication

Implementing the Treaty Body Review 2020 – Where do we stand

published on May 2022

Felix Kirchmeier, Chloé Naret, Domenico Zipoli

Read more