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The manufacture, trade and regulation of law enforcement and security equipment in Brazil


In recent years, the manufacture, promotion and trade of law enforcement and security equipment including, striking weapons, instruments of restraint, electric shock weapons, chemical irritants, kinetic impact ammunition, firearms and live ammunition and stun grenades has grown steadily, as national governments have come to increasingly rely on the use of such equipment to manage prisons, police borders and suppress civil unrest. While the market for law enforcement equipment has historically been dominated by North American and European companies, in recent years Brazil has established itself as a leading manufacturer and exporter.

If well-designed and used in accordance with international human rights law and the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, precaution, non-discrimination and accountability, the types of law enforcement and security equipment manufactured by Brazilian companies can play an important role in helping to maintain public order and uphold the rule of law. At the same time, however, there have been a high number of reported cases of serious injuries and deaths related to the abusive use of law enforcement equipment in Brazil and elsewhere, resulting in violations to the rights to life and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (torture and other ill-treatment), and the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. Often incidents such as these involve the misuse of equipment by law enforcement personnel and highlight the need for greater training and accountability for individuals who are authorised to use force. However, in many cases, these abuses also raise serious questions about the design of the equipment used by law enforcement as well as the extent to which the sale of such equipment to abusive regimes is consistent with business and human rights principles and other human rights standards. Attempts to prevent the types of human rights violations associated with the use of law enforcement equipment must therefore not only involve better training and increased accountability for law enforcement officials, but also greater regulation of the manufacture, promotion and trade of the equipment itself.

In the context of growing international concern with the manufacture and trade of law enforcement equipment and weapons as well as Brazil’s emergence as a significant competitor in the sector, this report aims to provide an insight into this aspect of Brazil’s arms trade, as well as develop recommendations about how this trade can be better controlled and regulated.

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