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Arbitrary police violence can amount to torture

Arbitrary police violence can amount to torture, even in public spaces, UN expert warns


NEW YORK (13 October 2017) – Arbitrary violence by police can amount to torture, even when it takes place outside prison walls, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, has told the UN General Assembly in New York.

"Any unnecessary, excessive or otherwise arbitrary use of force by law enforcement officials is incompatible with the absolute prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," the expert said, presenting his latest report to the UN General Assembly.

“Where such force intentionally and purposefully inflicts pain or suffering on powerless individuals, who are unable to escape or resist, it is always conclusively unlawful and may even amount to torture,” he stated.

Mr. Melzer said he wanted to clarify that the prohibition of torture applied to “all and any use of force by law enforcement officials, including outside prison walls”, to help ensure that States prevented torture and ill-treatment in all circumstances.

“States must ensure that their law enforcement agents are trained, equipped and instructed to avoid any unnecessary, excessive or otherwise arbitrary use of force, and to give priority to non-violent means of carrying out their duty,” Mr. Melzer said, outlining a series of recommendations to reduce the use of force.

“If the use of force is unavoidable, State officials must exercise restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate purpose to be achieved.”

Specific weapons and riot control devices used by police and security forces could themselves be illegal, the Special Rapporteur warned.

“A weapon or any other means of law enforcement must be considered as inherently cruel, inhuman or degrading, and therefore absolutely prohibited, whenever it is specifically designed, or is of a nature, to employ unnecessary, excessive or otherwise arbitrary force, against human beings,” the expert said.

“Overall, I hope my report will clarify that arbitrary police violence is not just bad policy, but amounts to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” he concluded. “Any tolerance, acquiescence or impunity for such abuse amounts to a serious violation of international law.”

ENDS

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