UN does not approve tear gas as a riot control agent

Dr Lin Mui Kiang
Free Malaysia Today
May 10, 2012

The United Nations in Malaysia would like to refer to the article published in The Star on May 7, 2012 titled ‘Police: Tear gas used at rally safe, UN-approved’. We very much regret that the UN in Malaysia was not consulted before the publication of this article as it contains serious inaccuracies.

The UN has consistently condemned the excessive use of force, including through the use of tear gas. Please also note that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council have on various occasions publicly expressed concerns about reliable reports indicating that civilians who died from tear gas suffered complications from gas inhalation, and that security forces have been firing metal tear gas canisters from grenade launchers into crowds.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression after his mission to the Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) in December 2011 noted that “while the use of tear gas to disperse a crowd may be legitimate under certain circumstances, tear gas canisters should never be fired directly at demonstrators.”

Moreover, unlike what is alleged in the article, the UN does not set international standards on different kinds of irritants, nor has the UN approved ‘CS Gas’ as a ‘riot control’ agent.

As far as the use of force is concerned, the relevant UN instrument is the Basic Principles on the use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which was adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in 1990, not the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) of 1993. I provide its general provisions below:

1 Governments and law enforcement agencies shall adopt and implement rules and regulations on the use of force and firearms against persons by law enforcement officials. In developing such rules and regulations, Governments and law enforcement agencies shall keep the ethical issues associated with the use of force and firearms constantly under review.

2 Governments and law enforcement agencies should develop a range of means as broad as possible and equip law enforcement officials with various types of weapons and ammunition that would allow for a differentiated use of force and firearms.

These should include the development of non-lethal incapacitating weapons for use in appropriate situations, with a view to increasingly restraining the application of means capable of causing death or injury to persons.

For the same purpose, it should also be possible for law enforcement officials to be equipped with self-defensive equipment such as shields, helmets, bullet-proof vests and bullet-proof means of transportation, in order to decrease the need to use weapons of any kind.

3 The development and deployment of non-lethal incapacitating weapons should be carefully evaluated in order to minimise the risk of endangering uninvolved persons, and the use of such weapons should be carefully controlled.

4 Law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. They may use force and firearms only if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result.

5 Whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall:

(a) Exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved;

(b) Minimise damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life;

(c) Ensure that assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or affected persons at the earliest possible moment;

(d) Ensure that relatives or close friends of the injured or affected person are notified at the earliest possible moment.

6 Where injury or death is caused by the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials, they shall report the incident promptly to their superiors, in accordance with principle 22.

7 Governments shall ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offence under their law.

8 Exceptional circumstances such as internal political instability or any other public emergency may not be invoked to justify any departure from these basic principles.

We at the United Nations appeal to all journalists to correctly and accurately research and report all matters and procedures related to the UN. We believe that such professionalism should also extend to all public officials.

The writer is the United Nations Coordination Specialist, Malaysia

  1. #1 by limkamput on Thursday, 10 May 2012 - 5:41 pm

    Thank you for this article; but what are you going to do next? Will there be any follow up action. You have spelt out lots of principles, but can you tell us based on your observations was the use of force excessive?

  2. #2 by Cinapek on Thursday, 10 May 2012 - 5:49 pm

    “…We at the United Nations appeal to all journalists to correctly and accurately research and report all matters and procedures related to the UN. We believe that such professionalism should also extend to all public officials….”

    More mud in the face for the BN Govt, PDRM and the Star. After the bungling appointment of Tun Hanif to chair the “independent” panel to investigate the assault on journalist despite his public unsubstantiated allegations of coup d’etat by Bersih 3, we now have another bungling attempt to justify the brutal police actions. In their desperation to cover up their dastardly acts they are even resorting to falsehood by dragging in the UN as well with the connivance of their MSM, which did not even verified these claims in a professional manner as befitting their profession as pointed out by Dr. Lin.


  3. #3 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Thursday, 10 May 2012 - 8:25 pm

    Shut up UN. Its the supreme umno ketuanan rights you are talking about. And that is one grave mistake. Either you apologise to umno or. …. Remember. Umno pantang dicabar.

  4. #4 by Winston on Thursday, 10 May 2012 - 8:47 pm

    It’s lying about everything under the sun.
    So, folks be very chary of anything coming out of the government and its institutions.
    Between what UMNO/BN said and what PR said, it’s better to believe only the PR!

  5. #5 by rockdaboat on Thursday, 10 May 2012 - 10:04 pm

    With NST doctoring an Australian MP’s speech and now this rebuttal from UN, I wonder if there is any credibility left of Malaysia.

  6. #6 by PoliticoKat on Thursday, 10 May 2012 - 10:53 pm

    So what will the UN do now aside from writing articles on the Internet like a common blogger?

    Is the UN going to demand an apology from the Malaysian government? Will the UN demand The Star retract the article and publish a formal letter of apology under the threat of a law suit?

    Or will the UN just keep quiet like a good paper tiger?

  7. #7 by negarawan on Thursday, 10 May 2012 - 11:55 pm

    Thanks to the United Nations confirmation that the PDRM and UMNO are basically incorrigible liars. This is a major international shame and scandal for the PDRM and UMNO.

  8. #8 by boh-liao on Friday, 11 May 2012 - 1:08 am

    NR n UmnoB/BN 2 UN: Ai say man, Y d regret? Only tear gas n water cannon lah, not C4 mah
    Wait lah, when C4 used, then mayb UN can protest lor

  9. #9 by Cinapek on Friday, 11 May 2012 - 1:38 am

    Score – Bersih 3 BN Govt 0.

    Semua own goal by the BN Govt. Goal No.1, doctoring the Australian MP’s speech by NST, UMNO’s mouthpiece. Goal No. 2, appointment of Tun Haniff as chairman of “independent” panel. Goal No.3, rebuttal of PDRM’s claims by the UN.

    All Bersih has to do is to keep up the pressure and you can see the BN Govt’s pack of lies collapsing like a pack of cards.

  10. #10 by Winston on Friday, 11 May 2012 - 9:47 am

    It’s not much use calling this government anything.
    All it wants is to hold on to power till eternity.
    Call it what you want as long as the gravy train keeps rolling!
    Credibility or what some would like to call “face” is of no importance or concern to them!!
    Haven’t this been going on for five and a half decades?
    So, the only recourse left now is to concentrate all our efforts to prise their grip from the government.
    Anything less won’t do.

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