Visual Glossary

Recording and identifying military, security and police (MSP) equipment used in human rights violations, torture and ill-treatment might provide the only evidence to prove that the incident happened and help identify the perpetrators. However, there is a lack of reporting “tools” to help people do this. This glossary is designed to help human rights monitors, researchers, campaigners and journalists recognise the different types of equipment used by law enforcement officers and accurately report on the equipment.

We recommend that the glossary is used in conjunction with Mispo.org (www.mispo.org), an image database which contains more information about the equipment featured in this glossary and Amnesty International’s Monitoring and Investigating Equipment Used in Human Rights Abuses.

What is covered in this glossary?

This glossary is split into sections, with each section covering a different type or “group” of equipment. “Groups” of equipment covered in this glossary include: electric shock equipment, restraints, launchers for chemical irritants, kinetic impact and other munitions, chemical irritants, and kinetic impact weapons (launched & handheld).

Please note that although these “groups” of equipment are often referred to as “less lethal” or “less than lethal”, they can still cause serious injuries and death, even when used as the manufacturer intended.

As with all types of technology, MSP equipment changes over time so this glossary will be periodically reviewed and updated to include new and emerging MSP technologies. 

Further information on the categories of the equipment can be found here and a table of all the terms used English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Chinese can be found here.

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Identification Tools

37/38 – 40mm in calibre. Fired from a grenade launcher. Can contain: CN, CR, CS, OC/Pepper, PAVA or a mix thereof. Can also contain dye / paint for marking targets. rritants are dispersed as powder, liquid or smoke (pyrotechnic).
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45mm in calibre. Fin-stabilised. Fired by placing over the barrel of a rifle. Long distance / high velocity.
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9mm calibre. Fired from any 9mm pistol or revolver. Can contain: CN, CS, OC/Pepper, PAVA or a mix thereof.
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Items containing dye / paint to mark targets for later identification Dispersal methods available: sprays / sprayers (incl. via water cannon), grenades / cartridges, mines, projectiles. Also offered as “personal protection” sprays.
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Can be thrown by hand or fired from a “launching cup” fitted to a rifle or shotgun (such as those set out in Section 3). Can contain: CN, CR, CS, OC/Pepper, PAVA or a mix thereof. Can also contain dye / paint for marking targets. Irritants are usually dispersed as powder, liquid or smoke. Some grenades separate into 2 or more pieces. Some contain multiple “submunitions” or disks of irritants. Some are explosive.
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Can contain: smoking tear gas, dye marking, explosive tear gas, or rubber balls. Can be wired together in a “daisy” or strung together to cross roads, pathways, perimeters, etc.
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Chemical irritant whose extreme smell leads to temporary incapacitation. Dispersal methods include: hand-held spray, liquid / mist fired from a water cannon or hand grenade. Can be combined with sound and/or light to create a multi-sensory effect as well as dye marking properties for later identification of subjects.
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Small plastic sphere which, on impact, splits to release contents. Can contain a number of different irritants / compounds such as: hot PAVA powder, marking projectiles, water-filled projectiles, and scented powder (for training). Also available as a glass breaking solid nylon projectile.
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Usually 12 or 24 gauge shotgun cartridge. Fired from a shotgun – see Section 3 for examples. Can contain: CN, CS, OC/Pepper or PAVA – usually in powder form.
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