Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials

Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials was adopted by the eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Cuba, in 1990.  Work of law enforcement officials is a social service of great importance and steps should be taken whenever necessary in order to improve the working conditions and status of these officials.  Attention should be provided to the role of law enforcement officials in relation to the administration of justice, protection of the right to life, liberty and security of the person, to their responsibility to maintain public safety and social peace and to the importance of their qualifications, training and conduct.

The basic principles are formulated to assist member states in their task of ensuring and promoting the proper role of law enforcement officials.  It should be respected by governments within the framework of their national legislation and practice.  It should be brought to the attention of law enforcement officials as well as other persons, such as judges, prosecutors, lawyers, members of the executive branch and the legislature, and the public.

The basic principles state that governments and law enforcement agencies should adopt and implement rules and regulations on the use of force and firearms against persons by law enforcement officials.  It further states that the law enforcement officials should use non violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms as far as possible.  It emphasizes that whenever the use of force and firearms are unavoidable, the officials should minimize damage and injury, respect and preserve human life, and also ensure medical aid to the injured.  Governments should ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offence under their law.

Some special provisions such as: conditions under which the officials can use firearms against persons, and guidelines on rules and regulations on the use of firearms by law enforcement officials are also stated in the principles.  The law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary during the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non violent.  They shall not use firearms against a person in custody or detention, except in self defense or in the defense of others against the immediate threat of death or serious injury, or when strictly necessary to prevent the escape of a person in custody or detention

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