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Preventing and fighting excessive use of force by the police

Demonstration - Police officers

The Legal Affairs Committee, meeting in Paris, denounced the frequent excessive use of force by law enforcement officers in member States, “violating the principles of necessity, proportionality, precaution, and non-discrimination", notably in policing peaceful demonstrations, in handling irregular migrant flows and in restoring public order in post-conflict situations. “This excessive use of force by police is not a number of isolated incidents, but part of a pattern,” the parliamentarians said.

The report by Oleksandr Merezhko (Ukraine, SOC), adopted by the committee, presents an analysis of the current situation in Europe, and refers to incidents where excessive force has been used to “suppress peaceful protests or disperse them” (in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, France, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Serbia Turkey, Ukraine), to “stop the influx of migrants” (in Croatia, France, Greece, Hungary, Spain), or “in post-conflict situations” (in Crimea or in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict).

In this context, the committee considers that national legislation should be based on international legal principles; prevent and punish excessive use of force by law enforcement officers in whatever context; and regulate the use of weapons and other lethal or non-lethal tools. It also recommended setting up independent mechanisms, within or outside police institutions, to conduct prompt investigations in order to ensure accountability of those involved.

Finally, the committee proposed that the Committee of Ministers adopt a new recommendation specifically on the use of force in policing and update its earlier recommendations on police ethics and the fight against impunity. According to the committee, the Committee of Ministers should also “launch the drafting process for a new Council of Europe Convention on the prevention of excessive police violence”, which would codify the highest standards and best practices in this field.