Police use of electric ‘stun’ guns should be subject to strict controls, the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee warns in its annual report published today.
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) states that it understands the wish of national authorities to provide law enforcement officials with means enabling them to give a more graduated response to dangerous situations.
The Committee acknowledges that the possession of less lethal weapons such as electrical discharge weapons (EDW) may in some cases make it possible to avoid the use of firearms. However, it stresses that these weapons can cause acute pain and are open to abuse.
“It is becoming increasingly common for police officers and other law enforcement officials to be issued with electrical discharge weapons, and these weapons are being used more and more during arrests. Authorities must ensure that their use is strictly regulated and that they are used only when this is really necessary”, said Mauro Palma, President of the CPT.
In the Committee’s view, the use of EDW should be limited to situations where there is a real and immediate threat to life or risk of serious injury. It is inadmissible to use them solely with the purpose of ensuring compliance with an order. Furthermore, their use should only be authorised when less coercive methods – such as negotiation and persuasion or manual control techniques – have failed or are impracticable and when it is the only alternative to other methods presenting greater risk of death or injury. The Committee also stresses the importance of adequately training public officials who may use EDW.