Research with an Impact

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.

Use of Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement

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.

COVID-19 Measure and the Relevance of the UN Guidance

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.

TASER of a police officer

Positive Impact and Use of Our Research

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.

National Day of Protests Against Racism & Political Repression Caravan / March down Maryland Avenue at 20th Street in Baltimore, Maryland on Saturday afternoon, 30 May 2020

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

View of the guide's cover page News

How Can the Land Community Use the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants to Protect the Right to Land?

17 December 2020

Two years have passed since the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. On this occasion, we are launching, together with the International Land Coalition, an easy-to-use manual that looks into how this historical declaration can be used to protect the right to land.

Read more

Flags of the Geneva Human Rights Platform on the Mont-Blanc Bridge News

New: Monthly Newsletter of the Geneva Human Rights Platform

23 February 2021

This monthly newsletter will keep our audience informed about the activities of the platform, upcoming events and key human rights discussions in Geneva and beyond.

Read more

View of Villa Moynier Event

Open House: Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict

16 June 2021, 12:30-13:30

Join us for our open house to learn more about this part-time programme designed professionals, meet staff, students and alumni, and discuss career opportunities.

Read more

MSF medical mobile teams vaccinating Elderly people and frontline Healthcare workers in a nursing home in Tripoli. Event

Against the Clock: Covid-19 Vaccination Campaigns during Armed Conflict

15 June 2021, 14:00-15:30

This online IHL Talk will discuss the legal and policy considerations for, and practical challenges to, equitable access to vaccination within territories affected by armed conflict.

Read more

Côte d'Ivoire,  Abidjan, military instruction center in Akandjé. An ICRC dissemination session on international humanitarian law for the 1st bataillon of commando paratroopers. Short Course

The Implementation of International Humanitarian Law

Winter 2022

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, will cover the ‘nuts and bolts’ of implementation, including national legislation, dissemination and training, and discuss the mechanisms such as the International Fact-Finding Commission, as set out in the treaties.

Read more

Prison visit by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Haiti Short Course

The Implementation of International Human Rights Law

Winter 2022

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, aims at presenting the institutions and procedures in charge of the implementation of international human rights law.

Read more

Madagascar, Miarinarivo district. Women transplanting rice. Project

The Rights of Peasants

Started in May 2008

After having provided academic support to the negotiation of the UN Declaration for ten years, this research project focuses on the implementation of the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

Read more

Screen Shot of Obsolete, a game made for the 7DFPS project in 7 days. Download for PC and Mac Project

Disruptive Military Technologies

Started in February 2020

Via a new lecture series on disruptive military technologies, this project aims at staying abreast of the various military technology trends; promoting legal and policy debate on new military technologies; and furthering the understanding of the convergent effects of different technological trends shaping the digital battlefield of the future.

Read more

cover of the publication Publication

Military Briefing: Persons with Disabilities and Armed Conflict

published on March 2021

Alice Priddy

Read more

cover of the publication Publication

Towards Transversal Standards to Evaluate the Impact of UN Special Procedures

published on February 2021

Jonathan Andrew

Read more