Women's March, Washington DC, 2017. Credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/Women%27s_March_Washington%2C_DC_USA_33.jpg Ted Eytan, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Women's March, Washington DC, 2017. Credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3b/Women%27s_March_Washington%2C_DC_USA_33.jpg Ted Eytan, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Protest

Around the world, people are raising their voices against injustice. However, a rise in authoritarian populism, deep societal divisions and weak institutions are all contributing to a disturbing trend: increased violence against peaceful protests.

Specialised law enforcement equipment is increasingly used to suppress dissent. A lack of understanding about both this equipment and the legal frameworks that govern its use hinders efforts to hold authorities accountable.

The consequences of the unlawful use of force against peaceful protesters include:

  • Physical and psychological harm: Though frequently referred to as ‘less lethal’ or ‘non-lethal’, the weapons used to suppress protests can cause serious injury (potentially amounting to torture or other ill-treatment) or even death. 
  • Chilling Effect: People stay away from future protests due to fear, undermining freedom of speech and assembly.
  • Erosion of Trust: Excessive police violence weakens public confidence in law enforcement and tarnishes the good work of lawful officers.
  • Impunity: Unpunished incidents create a culture of impunity, where abusive practices become entrenched and victims are deterred from coming forward to report abuse.
  • Weakened Democracy: By stifling public discourse, governments prevent citizens from holding them accountable, which is a cornerstone of democracy.

We work with a range of groups, including civil society organisations, journalists and judicial actors to protect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly:

  • Empowering Journalists: We collaborate with journalists to ensure accurate reporting on the use of force during protests.
  • Training Independent Monitors: We enable protest monitors to objectively document law enforcement crowd control tactics and identify potential abuses.
  • Monitoring Missions: We join forces with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and participate in protest monitoring missions, contributing to stronger international oversight.
  • Justice Through Law: We support strategic litigation efforts with expert reports, helping achieve justice for protestors and deterring future human rights violations.

Reports

Resources

Guide on Law Enforcement Equipment Most Commonly Used in the Policing of Assemblies
This guide, developed jointly by ODIHR and Omega, seeks to share some of the technical knowledge monitors need to accurately and independently document the presence and manner of use of law enforcement equipment during public as-semblies.
Available languages: English|Russian
Protest toolkit – illustrated guide
This guide on monitoring protests was been developed with IRCT to help protest monitors document use of weapons and injuries.
Available languages: Bengali|English|Spanish|georgian
Protest toolkit – Reporting form
This reporting form for documenting use of weapons and injuries has been developed with IRCT to help those monitoring protests.
Available languages: Bengali|English|French|georgian|Spanish
Riot ID
Pocket guide to help protesters and protest monitors identify equipment used in the policing of protests
Riot ID – Chemical Irritants
Pocket guide for protesters and protest monitors to identify chemical irritants used in the policing of protests.
Available languages: English|Spanish
Riot ID – Impact Projectiles
Pocket guide to help protesters and protest monitors identify impact projectiles used in policing of protests.
Available languages: English|Spanish