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OHCHR: Law enforcement and human rights

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Policing and the criminal justice system will only regain the public’s trust if they are seen to uphold dignity and equality, and to protect and serve all members of communities.

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 47th session of the Human Rights Council, 12 July 2021

About law enforcement, the use of force and human rights

The authority to use force by law enforcement officials derives from the duty of the State to maintain public order, and to ensure human rights and the rule of law. The use of force can therefore be necessary, such as for the protection of life, health and public safety.

International human rights law is the international legal framework regulating the use of force by law enforcement, and is designed to prevent arbitrary, excessive or discriminatory uses of force, and to ensure accountability in cases of abuse. It is therefore imperative that States comply with their international human rights obligations relating to law enforcement and the use of force.

Read more about law enforcement and human rights

Our work on the use of force

In light of the recent rise in global protests, there is a need to remind law enforcement and the public of the rules regulating the policing of assemblies by law enforcement. UN Human Rights has consistently advocated for States to adhere to international standards in order to prevent the misuse of force, including the misuse of less lethal weapons in policing.

The High Commissioner has issued multiple statements on the topic of use of force by law enforcement officers, most recently in relation to law enforcement and racial justice and equality in resolution 43/1, which resulted in report A/HRC/47/53 , issued in 2021.

Our work also extends to advocacy and capacity building, particularly in South America, where we assist with reviewing legislation and manuals, and advise on training in the field.

We hold regular presentations and events on the current international legal framework, the proper use of less lethal weapons and munitions, and engaging with security forces.