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 (, 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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Straight baton with side-handle. Commonly made of plastic or aluminium.
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Straight baton with metal spikes on the head.
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Straight baton with two handles on either side.
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Usually made of steel.
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Usually comprised of metal (steel or moulded lead) encased in thick leather and used for striking / slapping a target.
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Metal baton with sharp metal spikes the entire length.
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Commonly made of rubber, plastic, or wood. Can range in length from approx. 12 inches (30cms) to 36 inches (91.5cms). The longer batons are commonly sold as “riot batons”.
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Extendable baton – usually extends to 2 or 3 times retracted length. Typically made of aluminium. The impact can feel like a whip.
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