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

A wide range of devices exist to launch a net over a target, some of which combine a net with chemical irritants or electric shock devices.
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Metal extendible pole with half-moon / semi-circle end designed to trap a subject. The item pictured is large enough to encircle the waist of a subject. Others have smaller “grabbers” on the ends designed to grip wrists and ankles. Some incorporate an electric shock element. Some have “anti-grabbing” spikes
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Loud bang and bright flash of light emitted at once or close together – designed to disorient target. Various calibre / types of devices available which can be hand-thrown or rifle fired.
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Emits a “deterrent tone” to disperse a crowd or can be used as a mega phone-type device to convey instructions over a large area. Can be free-standing, vehicle-mounted, embedded in a riot control shield or body-worn (i.e. over the shoulder).
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Emits a “deterrent tone” to disperse a crowd or can be used as a mega phone-type device to convey instructions over a large area. Can be free-standing, vehicle-mounted, embedded in a riot control shield or body-worn (i.e. over the shoulder).
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Designed to cause temporary loss of vision. Blinding weapons are illegal under Protocol IV of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Some products can “dazzle” suspects from up to 1000m in daylight and up to 3000m at night. Can be rifle-shaped with bipods and picatinny rail, as a baton, or designed to be attached as accessories to small arms or light weapons
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Designed to cause temporary loss of vision. Blinding weapons are illegal under Protocol IV of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Some products can “dazzle” suspects from up to 1000m in daylight and up to 3000m at night. Can be rifle-shaped with bipods and picatinny rail , as a baton, or designed to be attached as accessories to small arms or light weapons
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Small (“pocket-sized”) plastic device used to apply pressure to a subject in order to restrain or disarm. Forces compliance through pain.
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Can be free-standing, vehicle-mounted, building-mounted, or “backpack” style. Some mix chemical irritants and/or dyes in with the water.
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