Lowering the risk - Curtailing the use of chemical irritants during the COVID-19 pandemic

Position paper setting out the increased risk of using chemical irritants during the pandemic.

The Omega Research Foundation monitors the use of force by law enforcement officials worldwide. Omega has documented instances of law enforcement officials using chemical irritants to enforce COVID-19 related restrictions in at least 11 countries. The pandemic has also coincided with the global Black Lives Matter movement and other social protests, and widespread use of chemical irritants to disperse public gatherings has continued in many countries. There are ordinarily health risks associated with the use of chemical irritants, but their use during the pandemic may carry a heightened risk of causing unintentional adverse impacts. This Position Paper examines these additional risks, both in the context of public gatherings and in places of detention.

Image: Brazilian National Mechanism to Prevent and Combat Torture, 2017.

This document has been produced under a project co-funded by the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the Omega Research Foundation and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union. The implementing partners under this EU-funded project are: Institute for Security Studies (South Africa), Justiça Global (Brazil), Legal Resources Centre (South Africa) and Omega Research Foundation (UK). The Commission for “the Disappeared” and Victims of Violence – KontraS (Indonesia) is an associate organisation.