Less Lethal Weapons

Less-Lethal-Weapons


Staff members of ICLA worked with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to develop guidelines on the use of less lethal weapons. The OHCHR on 30 June 2020 released the final version of the United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement (2020).  

The Guidance, which was released in advance format in 2019, has already been used widely, especially in the context of demonstrations. Here are some links:

  1. Judgment by the High Court of South Africa (Gauteng Division, Pretoria) in the case of Khosa Mphephu and 2 Others v Minister of Defence and Military Veterans and 9 others, No. 21512/2020 concerning the killing of a civilian by security forces. Available here
  2. Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General on the impact of new technologies on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of assemblies, including peaceful protests. Available here
  3. Study by the University of Chicago Law School titled ‘Deadly Discretion: The Failure of Police Use of Force Policies to Meet Fundamental International Human Rights Law and Standards.’ Available here
  4. Study by Hong Kong’s IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Council) on the public order events arising from the Fugitive Offenders Bill since June 2019 and the Hong Kong police actions in response. Available here
  5. Report on demonstrations in Iraq prepared by the Human Rights Office of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq. Available here
  6. Report by the Hong Kong Research Office on the use of less-lethal weapons in selected places by the Hong Kong Police Force. Available here
  7. Q&A by ICRC explaining the constraints on the use of weapons and equipment in law enforcement operations. Available here
  8. Report on the use of less-lethal weapons by Jamaican law enforcement, published in The Indecom Quarterly. Available here
  9. Report by Apologiya Protesta (a project of Agora International Human Rights Group) on riot dispersal machinery in Russia. Available here
  10. Monograph prepared by the Institute for Security Studies on the use of less-lethal weapons in South African prisons and crowd management. Available here 
  11. Compilation of Human Rights Comments by Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. Available here
  12. Comment by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights on the shrinking space for freedom of peaceful assembly. Available here
  13. An Early Day Motion in the UK Parliament noting, among others, the failure by Hong Kong police to adhere to the provisions of the United Nations Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement. Available here
  14. Press Briefing by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, where she urged states to ensure that new technologies serve, and not hinder, peaceful protest. Available here
  15. Press statement by International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO) and Physicians for Human Rights condemning the wrongful use of less-lethal weapons employed by the military and police forces in Chile in response to protests. Available here
  16. Public statement by Amnesty International on state interference with the right of peaceful assembly in Georgia. Available here
  17. Open letter to China by the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. Available here
  18. Open letter to Hong Kong by Lawyers Rights Watch Canada on the need for an independent commission of inquiry to investigate unlawful use of force by the Hong Kong Police Force and other non-state actors. Available here
  19. Primer by Physicians for Human Rights on Crowd-Control Weapons and Social Protest in the United States. Available here
  20. Article by Abi Dymond and Neil Corney on the Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons in the context of the coronavirus, published in the Blog of the European Journal of International Law (EJIL:Talk!). Available here
  21. Article in The Washington Post by Agnes Callamard on police in the U.S. abusing tear gas and rubber bullets in possible violations of international law. Available here
  22. Article by Marta Achler and Martin Scheinin on International Standards Regarding the Handling of Demonstrations, published by Just Security. Available here
  23. Article by Javier Velásquez Valenzuela and Catalina Fernández Carter on the damage caused by ‘non-lethal’ ammunition used by law enforcement officials against protesters, published by the Center for Journalistic Investigation. Available here
  24. Article by Miriam Berger on the dangerous and deadly effects of ‘nonlethal weapons’ fired at protesters in Hong Kong, Chile and Iraq, published by the Washington Post. Available here
  25. Article by Amy Mckeever on what ‘nonlethal’ weapons can do to the body, published by National Geographic. Available here
  26. Article by South Africa’s C19 People’s Coalition Anti-Repression Working Group on the need for South Africa to restrain use of force by police, covered in the Mail & Guardian. Available here
  27. Article by Rachel Fairbank titled 'Less Lethal' Police Weapons, explained’, published in the Lifehacker Australia Blog. Available here
  28. Article by Lam Sze Hong on whether there is any limitation on the use of tear gas as a Riot Control Agent, published in the University of Leiden’s Law Blog. Available here
  29. Article by Catalina Fernandez Carter on the use of force by the Chilean Police during protests, published by Opinio Juris. Available here
  30. Article by Matthew McEvoy and Veronica Hinestroza on the use of force in the Americas, published by Omega Research Foundation. Available here
  31. Article in The Quint on the possible violation of the UN Guidance by Delhi Police’s use of tear gas canisters inside Jamia Millia Islamia University in December 2019. Available here
  32. Article by Luciana Pol on less-lethal weapon abuse in Chile, published by openDemocracy. Available here
  33. Article by Luke Taylor in The World on the death of a protester attributed to the use of less-lethal weapons by Colombian riot police.  Available here
  34. Article by Sean Tait in the Mail & Guardian, urging the overhaul and alignment of South Africa’s laws on the use of force. Available here
  35. Article by Stuart Casey-Maslen, Christof Heyns and Thomas Probert titled, ‘Less Lethal than Firearms, But Only if Used Appropriately,’ published by Just Security. Available here

The Guidance has also been cited in the Draft General Comment 37 on Article 21 of the ICCPR.

Last updated: 20 July 2020