© 2024 International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations & Physicians for Human Rights


The way forward: New and revised recommendations

The common misconception of CCWs is that they are “non-lethal”, “less than lethal” or “less lethal”, and therefore preferable to the use of more injurious means of dispersing a crowd. However, Lethal in Disguise shows that these weapons can often result in significant injuries, disability and even death. As a result, there is a pressing need for states to change their perceptions regarding CCWs and adopt more stringent rules around CCW use. There is also a pressing need to engage in further research and empirical studies to develop clear scientific standards and parameters to regulate CCWs and their use, and to further develop international law and standards.

In this section, we outline pre-deployment, deployment and post-deployment recommendations on CCWs in order to develop safe practices for their use. We also identify those weapons that serve no purpose for crowd control and should therefore be banned. In addition, we make recommendations on the implementation of international law and standards, and detail challenges in the implementation of these standards at the national level. We also highlight areas in which international law and standards need to develop.

Design and trade

  • CCWs and related equipment intended for use in the context of protests must be designed and produced in a way that ensures that they meet legitimate law enforcement objectives and comply with international law and standards. This duty applies to states and their agents, and also to companies that manufacture weapons for law enforcement, as it is recognized in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • All safety data sheets and any other relevant information should be provided by manufacturers and should be publicly accessible. Publicly available data should include each weapon’s design features and parameters with a view to facilitating medical treatment and public acceptance. Manufacturers should also identify and release all medical studies and the names of the experts who have contributed to safety analyses, indicating those who have received compensation for promoting their products.

Regulations and training

  • Regulations, procedures and/or protocols on the use of CCWs should be developed for law enforcement based on applicable domestic and international laws. Treaty obligations and international standards should be included and operationalized in the protocols. These should also reflect findings from independent testing. Law enforcement should not rely solely on manufacturers’ instructions.

Post-hoc procedures and accountability

  • Law enforcement officials should record and report any use of CCWs, including specific models of CCWs deployed, the distances from the targeted individuals/bystanders and duration of deployment, the number of each type of CCW used, and documented or reported injuries caused by CCWs. The reporting must demonstrate that the use of CCWs was proportionate, necessary and legal.
  • All cases of deaths, injuries and suspected misuse of CCWs should be thoroughly investigated by a body independent from the unit or department involved, with a view to establishing responsibilities and accountability of the officers involved, including the various levels of the command structure in charge during the incident. Where there is evidence of unlawful conduct, commanders and responsible officers should be liable to administrative disciplinary measures and/or criminal prosecution.
  • States should engage with and support international and regional processes to develop trade controls, including the UN process on controls on the trade in tools of torture.