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OHCHR and law enforcement

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The general rules derived from international human rights law regulating the use of force are as follows: 

Law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. Where such non-violent means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result, the use of force is permitted only where:

  • It is provided by law, 
  • is necessary in order to achieve a legitimate law enforcement objective, 
  • and where the use of force is proportionate to achieve its protective function. The requirement of proportionality means that the force used must be the least amount necessary and that it must be proportionate to the interest to be protected. 
  • Lastly, the use of force must comply with the prohibition of discrimination. 

Alleged violations of these rules must be subject to effective independent investigations. Where appropriate, those responsible must be held accountable.

States must take all necessary measures to implement their human rights law obligations. This may entail measures such as the adoption of appropriate legal frameworks regulating the use of force, the design and implementation of training and practical guidance for law enforcement, and the implementation of necessary institutional reforms to ensure effective accountability mechanisms to prevent impunity in cases of abuse.