Prisoner restrained in handcuffs.
Prisoner restrained in handcuffs.


Restraints are designed to restrict or prevent movement. While specialist law enforcement restraints (the focus of this section) are commonly used by law enforcement around the world, improvised or ad hoc restraints such as shoelaces and ropes, are also used to violate human rights. This page includes information on common types of restraints, relevant reports, and resources.

Restraints can cause a various physical injuries and psychological harm depending on their design and how they are used. Some restraints are so dangerous that their use violates human rights and can be torture. These include thumbcuffs, weighted leg cuffs, and neck restraints. Other restraints, such as handcuffs, may be used by law enforcement a human rights-compliant way, but unfortunately they are often used to cause harm. For example, a person might be handcuffed in a stress position or to a fixed object (like a wall or ceiling), or several people might be people handcuffed together; all such use is harmful and dangerous. Injuries from restraints can be life-threatening.

Omega researches different kinds of restraints. We call for the trade and use of abusive restraints to be prohibited, and for robust controls to be placed on the trade and use of other kinds to ensure they are not used to violate human rights.

Examples of the misuse of restraints by law enforcement



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
Handbook on Handcuffs and Other Instruments of Restraint in Judicial Hearings
The original handbook in, written in Brazillian Portuguese was developed specifically for the Brazilian judiciary. We have also published a second handbook, written in English, with an international focus. Both instruments are the result of collaboration between the Omega and the Programme “Fazendo Justiça”.
Available languages: English|Portuguese
Introduction to law enforcement equipment
An introduction to different types of policing equipment (2015).
Available languages: Arabic|English|French|Spanish
Restraints chapter – Visual Guide
This chapter from our Visual Guide to Law Enforcement Equipment covers the different types of restraints use by law enforcement.
Available languages: English