Use of Force, Crowd Control and Peaceful Protests

Completed in October 2019

Use of force in relation to crowd control and peaceful protest raises several challenges under international human rights law at national, regional and international levels. Existing international standards neither capture the multitude of cases of use of force in crowd control and peaceful protest nor encompass new security devices that are used by law enforcement officers during demonstrations. Similarly, no international forum, in Geneva or elsewhere, addresses this issue.

To date, for instance, while less-lethal weapons (LLWs) are regularly used by law enforcement for the management of assemblies, there is no international guidance on their design, production, procurement, testing, training, transfer, and use.

Objectives

This research project aims at addressing the challenges – legal and law enforcement – encountered during the management of assemblies and at filling the protection gaps by developing new standards and useful tools via regular brainstorming on specific issues among law enforcement professionals, peacekeepers, academics, experts, practitioners from the United Nations and regional systems, diplomats and civil society representatives; an annual meeting, targeted research and publications; support to the negotiations at the UN Human Rights Council; support to the work of the UN Human Rights Committee on its General Comment on article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; work on specific issues like the use of LLWs.

Advice and Guidance from an Academic Working Group

An Academic Working Group made of leading academics, law enforcement experts and practitioners from different regions and legal backgrounds, and representatives from international organizations and civil society advice the research team and addresses strategic approaches and responses to a specific use of force issues like less lethal weapons, crowd control or the use of new technologies. Its composition varies according to the topics discussed. One example of the work of the AWG is a draft document on LLW.

NEWS

Pixabay/joanbrown51 News

Research with an Impact: The Relevance of the UN Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons

5 June 2020

This document – the outcome of research and broad consultations carried out under the auspices of the Geneva Academy and the University of Pretoria – provides direction on what constitutes lawful and responsible deployment and use of less-lethal weapons.

Read more >

Policeman with a TASER X26 News

Stakeholder Consultation: Geneva Guidelines on Less-Lethal Weapons and Related Equipment in Law Enforcement

31 July 2018

Stakeholders are invited to submit comments or suggestions to a draft set of guidelines on the lawful and responsible design, production, procurement, testing, training, transfer, and use of less-lethal weapons and related equipment.

Read more >

Picture of the High Level Panel Speakers News

High Level Panel on the Policing of Assemblies and Human Rights: Freedom of Assembly, Prohibition of Torture and Right to Life

1 May 2017

The High Level Panel on Policing of Assemblies and Human Rights, held on 1 May 2017 in the margin of the annual platform on current human rights challenges, discussed issues such as the human rights that are at stake during the policing of assemblies, the challenges posed by specific weapons and the role and potential of the revised Minnesota Protocol.

Read more >

OUTPUT

The Right to Life

In 2016, the project focussed on the current challenges and opportunities in relation to the right to life, as well as some of the cutting-edge developments in the field.

In the 2016 annual expert seminar, co-organized with the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, leading experts, diplomats, human rights and humanitarian practitioners addressed key issues related to the right to life such as regulation in armed conflict situations and in the context of law enforcement, the role of investigations, new weapon technologies, mandatory death-penalty and the responsibility of non-state actors.

The Geneva Academy In-Brief Use of Force in Law Enforcement and the Right to Life: The Role of the Human Rights Council draws from the discussions of the 2016 expert seminar. It examines how the right to life is affected by law enforcement agencies’ use of force and identifies how the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) could further promote respect for international standards governing policing.

Policing of Assemblies: Use of Force and Accountability

In 2017, the project focussed on the rights affected by the use of force by law enforcement officials during the policing of assemblies.
In the 2017 annual expert seminar, experts and practitioners from the United Nations and regional systems, diplomats, academics, and civil society representatives discussed the implications of ‘public order policing’ for the right to life, comparisons between the practices of law enforcement units in different countries, and comparisons between the practices of law enforcement units in different countries. They also analysed current technological and legal developments in the field, both in terms of their potential advantages and the threats they might engender.

Participants also explored the challenges and opportunities of new technologies, including ‘less-lethal’ weapons (LLWs) and unmanned systems, from the perspectives of both the right to life and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. They also focused on the problems related to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in an ‘extra-custodial’ setting, which diversified the discussions.

Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons

Under the auspices of the Geneva Academy and the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, a group of experts – academics, representatives of 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 – developed a guidance on less-lethal weapons (LLWs) and related equipment in law enforcement.

A three-month written consultation process, as well as several expert meetings and consultations in Pretoria, Cambridge and Geneva over the course of 2018 allowed gathering inputs and comments from a broad range of stakeholders.

The Guidelines on Less-Lethal Weapons and Related Equipment in Law Enforcement will be published in 2019 by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Based on international law, in particular international human rights law and law enforcement rules, as well as good law enforcement practice, they intend to provide direction on the lawful and responsible design, production, transfer, procurement, testing, training, deployment, and use of LLWs and related equipment, and to promote accountability. The Guidelines aim to assist a wide range of stakeholders, namely states, law enforcement agencies, manufacturers, human rights bodies and mechanisms, private security companies, police oversight bodies, human rights defenders, as well as individuals seeking to assert their right to a remedy for human rights violations caused by LLWs and related equipment.

Publications

Cover page of the Guidance

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

October 2019

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Download >

Past Events

Launch: United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons

25 October 2019, 13:15-14:45

Read more >

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Social media icons News

Placing Human Rights at the Centre of Regulatory Frameworks and Legislation on Online Harm

18 January 2022

In light of concerns about the dissemination of illegal content, disinformation and misinformation via online platforms and social media, our new  Working Paper Regulatory Approaches to Online Harms and Human Rights: Three Case Studies discusses how to best place human rights at the centre of regulatory frameworks and legislation on online harms.

Read more

A group photo of participants in the pilot focused review News

Second UN Treaty Body Focused Review Pilot Takes Place in Grenada

8 April 2022

From 23 to 24 March 2022, the Geneva Human Rights Platform conducted in Grenada, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat, its second pilot of a UN treaty bodies (TBs) focused review – designed to discuss how countries implement specific recommendations issued by UN TBs between sessions.

Read more

Wheat field Event

UNDROP in the Future EU Seed Marketing Reform: The Perspective of Italy

6 June 2022, 14:00-15:30

This online bilingual workshop, held in English and Italian, aims to raise awareness about the upcoming changes to the European Union (EU) seed marketing legislation and what this reform means in the Italian context.

Read more

A general view of participants during of the 33nd ordinary session of the Human Rights Council. Training

The Universal Periodic Review and the UN Human Rights System: Raising the Bar on Accountability

7-11 November 2022

This training course will explore the origin and evolution of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and its functioning in Geneva and will focus on the nature of implementation of the UPR recommendations at the national level.

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

George Floyd protest in Washington D.C. Project

Promoting and Protecting the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association and Civic Space Worldwide

Started in June 2020

This project aims at providing support to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association Clément Voulé by addressing emerging issues affecting civic space and eveloping tools and materials allowing various stakeholders to promote and defend civic space.

Read more

Futuristic Robot Arm Interacting with Screen Project

Disruptive Technologies and Rights-Based Resilience

Started in July 2021

This project will facilitate a multistakeholder consultative process to identify knowledge gaps, generate new evidence and co-design evidence-based tools to support regulatory and policy responses to human rights challenges linked to digital technologies.

Read more

Cover of the publication Publication

Regulating business conduct in the technology sector gaps and ways forward in applying the UNGPs

published on April 2022

Ana Beduschi, Isabel Ebert

Read more

Cover of the Publication Publication

Strengthening state accountability on business and human rights at international level

published on March 2022

John E. Grova

Read more