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Action, Not Just Words: The Practical Implications of Human Rights Law for the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials

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The author discusses the areas to be addressed if international human rights rules and standards applicable to the use of force and firearms are not to remain merely a theoretical concept, but are to be implemented in daily policing practice. These areas are the domestic legislation that must be formulated in conformity with international human rights law and the operational framework to be established by the command leadership of a law enforcement agency, including: operational policies and instructions for the use of force and firearms; the appropriate choice for equipment and weapons including instructions as to their use; practical scenario-based training of law enforcement officials that must seek to develop the skills and competencies required for daily policing work; and an effective system of accountability, in particular for unlawful use of force.

Affiliations: 1: PhD in Criminal Procedure Law; Master in Humanitarian Assistance; Senior Programme Officer of the Police and Human Rights Programme (PHRP), Amnesty International (Dutch Section); member of the Panel of Experts on Freedom of Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe/Office of for Democratic Institutions and Human rights (OSCE-ODIHR)


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1. Amnesty International, You Killed My Son: Homicides by Military Police in the City of Rio de Janeiro, amr 19/2068/2015, Retrieved 29 December 2016.
2. Amnesty International, us Section, Deadly Force – The Use of Lethal Force in the United States , New York, 2015, Retrieved 29 December 2016.
3. Amnesty International, Dutch Section, Use of Force: Guidelines for Implementation of the un Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, Amsterdam, 2015; cited as ainl Guidelines; available at
4. Amnesty International, Dutch Section, Policing Assemblies, Police and Human Rights Programme (phrp) Short Paper Series No. 1, Amsterdam, 2013, available at:
5. Amnesty International, Dutch Section (A. Osse), Understanding Policing, Amsterdam, 2006.
6. Celermajer Danielle, and Grewal Kiran, ‘"Preventing Human Rights Violations ‘From the Inside’: Enhancing the Role of Human Rights Education in Security Sector Reform"’, in Journal of Human Rights Practice Vol. Vol 5, No. 2, 2013, pp. 243266.
7. Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth Manual on Human Rights Training for Police, London, 2006.
8. Crawshaw Ralph,, Cullen Stuart,, and Williamson Tom, Human Rights and Policing , 2 nd edition, Leiden/Boston, 2006.
9. Frésard Jean-Jacques, The Roots of Behaviour in War: A Survey of the Literature , Geneva, 2004.
10. International Committee of the Red Cross (icrc), To Serve and to Protect: Human Rights and Humanitarian Law for Police and Security Forces, 2nd edition (A. Bienert), Geneva, 2014.
11. Muñoz-Rojas Daniel, and Frésard Jean-Jacques, ‘"The Roots of Behaviour in War: Understanding and Preventing ihl Violations"’, in International Review of the Red Cross (irrc), Vol. Vol 86 (2004), No. 853, pp. 190206.
12. Murdoch Jim, and Roche Ralph, The European Convention on Human Rights and Policing , Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 2016.
13. Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe / Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (osce/odihr), Human Rights Handbook on Policing Assemblies, Warsaw, 2016.
14. osce/odihr, Guidelines for Human Rights Education for Law Enforcement Officials, Warsaw, 2013.
15. Swedish National Police Board, Dialogue Police – Experiences, Observations and Opportunities, rps Rapport 2010:4, Stockholm, 2010.
16. United Nations (un) High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights and Law Enforcement – A Manual on Human Rights Training for the Police, Geneva, 1997.
17. United Nations Joint report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on the proper management of assemblies, un Doc. a/hrc/31/66 (4 February 2016).
18. United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, reports:–Christof Heyns: un Doc. a/hrc/29/37 (24 April 2015), un Doc. a/hrc/26/36 (1 April 2014), un Doc. a/66/330 (30 August 2011) –Philip Alston: un Doc. a/61/311 (5 September 2006)
19. United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division (2015), Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department (4 March 2015), available at:
20. Wahl Rachel, ‘"Policing, Values, and Violence: Human Rights Education with Law Enforcers in India"’, in Journal of Human Rights Practice Vol. Vol 5, No. 2, 2013, pp. 220242.

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