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«10 Basic Human Rights Standards for Law Enforcement Officials December 1998 AI Index POL 30/04/98 Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 ...»

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10 Basic Human Rights Standards

for Law Enforcement Officials

December 1998

AI Index POL 30/04/98

Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 8DJ, United Kingdom

All governments are required to adopt the necessary measures to instruct

law enforcement officials, during basic training and all subsequent

training and refresher courses, in the provisions of national legislation in

accordance with the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement

Officials as well as other basic international human rights standards applicable to law enforcement officials.

These standards should be made available as widely as possible to the general public and fully respected under all circumstances. They should be reflected in national legislation and practice, and regular public reports issued on their implementation. Exceptional circumstances such as a state of emergency or any other public emergency do not justify any departure from these standards.

All governments should adopt an active and visible policy of integrating a gender perspective into the development and implementation of training and policies for law enforcement officials.

Introduction These ‘10 Basic Human Rights Standards for Law Enforcement Officials’ were prepared by Amnesty International in association with police officials and experts from different countries. They are based on United Nations law enforcement, criminal justice and human rights standards. They are intended as a quick reference, and not as a full explanation of or commentary on the applicability of international human rights standards relevant to law enforcement.

This document is intended to raise awareness amongst government officials, parliamentarians, journalists and non-governmental organizations of some fundamental standards which should be part of any police training and police practice.

It is hoped that police authorities will be able to use these 10 basic standards as a starting point to develop detailed guidance for the training and monitoring of the conduct of police agents. Certainly, it is the duty of all officers to ensure that their colleagues uphold the ethical standards of their profession - the standards outlined here are essential for exercising that responsibility.

Background Everyone shares responsibility to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in its entirety. Nevertheless the UDHR contains a number of articles which are

particularly relevant for law enforcement work:

• Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person (Article 3, UDHR) • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 5, UDHR) • All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law (Article 7, UDHR) • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention (Article 9, UDHR).

• Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which they have had all the guarantees necessary for their defence (Article 11(1), UDHR) • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression (Article 19, UDHR) • Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and no one may be compelled to belong to an association (Article 20, UDHR) Other documents directly relevant to policing work are the following United Nations law

enforcement, criminal justice and human rights instruments:

• UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials • UN Guidelines for the effective implementation of the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials • UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions • UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances • UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment • UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights • UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials • UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (hereafter referred to as Standard Minimum Rules) • UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (hereafter referred to as Body of Principles) • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child • UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty • UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women • UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power • UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) The UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the UN Standard Minimum Rules and the UN Body of Principles set out several important principles and prerequisites for the

humane performance of law enforcement functions, including that:

• Every law enforcement agency should be representative of, and responsive and accountable to, the community as a whole • The effective maintenance of ethical standards among law enforcement officials depends on the existence of a well-conceived, popularly accepted and humane system of laws • Every law enforcement official is a part of the criminal justice system, the aim of which is to prevent and control crime, and the conduct of every official has an impact on the entire system • Every law enforcement agency should discipline itself to uphold international human rights standards and the actions of law enforcement officials should be open to public scrutiny • Standards for humane conduct of law enforcement officials lack practical value unless their content and meaning become part of the creed of every law enforcement official, through education and training and through monitoring.





The term “law enforcement officials” includes all officers of the law, whether appointed or elected, who exercise police powers, especially the powers of arrest and detention. This should be given the widest possible interpretation, and includes military and other security personnel as well as immigration officials where they exercise such powers.

Copies of UN law enforcement, criminal justice and human rights standards can be obtained from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland (http://www.un.org/cgi-bin/treaty 2.pl or E-mail to: treaty@un.org)

Basic Standard 1:

Everyone is entitled to equal protection of the law, without discrimination on any grounds, and especially against violence or threat.

Be especially vigilant to protect potentially vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, women, refugees, displaced persons and members of minority groups.

For the implementation of Basic Standard 1 it is of great importance that police officers at all times fulfil the duty imposed on them by law, by serving the community and protecting all persons against illegal acts, consistent with the high degree of responsibility required by their profession. They must promote and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the

human rights of all persons, among which are the following:

–  –  –

No law enforcement official may inflict, instigate or tolerate any act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, nor may they invoke superior orders or exceptional circumstances such as a state of war or threat of war, or political instability or other public emergency as a justification for such acts. Special attention should be given to the protection of human rights of members of potentially vulnerable groups, such as children, the elderly, women, refugees, displaced persons and members of minority groups.

Sources include: UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (Articles 1,2,5), Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (paragraph 2.2.4)

–  –  –

Victims are people who have suffered harm, including mental and physical injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights through acts or omissions that are in violation of criminal law.

For the implementation of Basic Standard 2, police officers must:

• Ensure that, if needed, measures are taken to ensure the protection and safety of victims from intimidation and retaliation • Inform victims without delay of the availability of health and social services and other relevant assistance • Provide without delay specialist care for women who have suffered violence • Develop investigative techniques that do not further degrade women who have been victims of violence.

• Give particular attention to victims who have special needs because of the nature of the harm inflicted on them or because of factors such as race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, age, language, religion, nationality, political or other opinion, disability, ethnic or social origin, etc.

Sources include: UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (Principles 4, 14, 15, 16 and 17), CEDAW - General Recommendation No 19 (11th Session, 1992)

–  –  –

The implementation of Basic Standard 3 involves, among other things, that Police officers, in carrying out their duty, should apply non-violent means as far as possible before resorting to the use of force. They may use force only if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the necessary result. Basic Standard 3 must be implemented in accordance with Basic Standard 4 and 5.

Whenever the lawful use of force is unavoidable, police officers must:

• Exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved • Minimize damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life • Ensure that all possible assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or affected persons at the earliest possible moment • Ensure that relatives or close friends of the injured or affected person are notified at the earliest possible moment • Where injury or death is caused by the use of force by police officers, they shall report the incident promptly to their superiors, who should ensure that proper investigations of all such incidents are carried out.

Sources include: UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (Article 3), UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (Principles 4, 5, 6 and 9)

–  –  –

Everyone is allowed to participate in peaceful assemblies, whether political or non-political, subject only to very limited restrictions imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society to protect such interests as public order and public health. The police must not interfere with lawful and peaceful assemblies, otherwise than for the protection of persons participating in such an assembly or others.

The implementation of Basic Standard 4 involves, among other things:

• In the policing of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, police officers must avoid the use of force. If force is indispensable, for example to secure the safety of others, they must restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary and in compliance with the other provisions in Basic Standard 3

• Firearms shall not be used in the policing of non-violent assemblies. The use of firearms is strictly limited to the objectives mentioned in Basic Standard 5

• In the dispersal of violent assemblies police officers may use force only if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result. When using force police officers must comply with the provisions in Basic Standard 3

• In the dispersal of violent assemblies police officers may use firearms only when less dangerous means are not practicable and only to the minimum extent necessary to achieve one of the objectives mentioned in Basic Standard 5 and in accordance with the provisions in Basic Standard 3 and Basic Standard 5.

Sources include: UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (Principles 9, 12, 13, and 14)

–  –  –

The use of firearms is an extreme measure which must be strictly regulated, because of the risk of death or serious injury involved. The implementation of Basic Standard 5 requires, among other things, that police officers must not use firearms except for the following objectives and only

when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives:

• In self-defence or in defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury • To prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life • To arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting the police officer's authority, or to prevent his or her escape In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.

Police officers must identify themselves as such and give a clear warning of their intent to use firearms, with sufficient time for the warning to be observed, unless to do so would unduly place the officers at risk or would create a risk of death or serious harm to other persons, or would be clearly inappropriate or pointless in the circumstances of the incident

Rules and regulations on the use of firearms by police officers must include guidelines that:

• Specify the circumstances under which police officers are authorized to carry firearms and prescribe the types of firearms and ammunition permitted

–  –  –

To make sure that an arrest is lawful and not arbitrary, it is important that the reasons for the arrest and the powers and identity of arresting officers are known. Therefore the implementation of Basic

Standard 6 involves, among other things:

• Arrest or detention shall only be carried out strictly in accordance with the provisions of the law and by competent officials or persons authorized for that purpose

• Police or other authorities which arrest a person shall exercise only the powers granted to them under the law



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