International Laws and Standards that Affect Policing

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

The 1948 UDHR is a fundamental source for legislative and judicial practice across the world, and a basis for all other international treaties and conventions discussed below. The UDHR defines the duty of governments to protect people's human rights, and lays down principles or standards for all nations to follow.

Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

Adopted by the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in 1955, and approved by the Economic and Social Council in 1957, these rules set out principles and good practice in the treatment of prisoners and the management of institutions. The Rules were among the first international instruments for the protection of the rights of those accused of committing a criminal offence.

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)

Adopted in 1965, ICERD reaffirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity, and should be entitled to equal protection of the law against any discrimination. Signatory states take responsibility for prohibiting and eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was established under this Convention to monitor how the states have fulfilled their undertakings. The Committee also accepts complaints from one state about racial discrimination by another state.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

The 1966 ICCPR widened the range of rights established by the EDHR and established the UN Human Rights Committee to monitor implementation.

Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Also adopted in 1966, this optional protocol sets up systems for the Human Rights Committee to receive and consider communications from individuals who claim to be victims of human rights violations by any signatory states.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Adopted in 1979, CEDAW defines discrimination against women and provides the basis for the realisation of equality between women and men. States which ratify CEDAW are legally bound to puts its provisions into practice. It established the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which can receive and consider communications or complaints about gender discrimination from individuals or groups.

UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials

Adopted in 1979, this code sets out basic standards for policing agencies across the world. It requires police officials in signatory states to recognize the rights set out in the UDHGR and other international conventions.

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)

Adopted in 1984, the CAT prohibits the use of torture or any other inhuman or degrading treatment in attempting to obtain information from a suspect. It is one of the most important declarations to be observed by police officials in the exercise of their duty. The CAT established the Committee against Torture, which can consider individual complaints and complaints about torture from one state about another.

United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice ("The Beijing Rules")

Adopted in 1985, the Rules are intended to be universally applicable across different legal systems, setting minimum standards to be observed in the handling of juvenile offenders. These rules require that law enforcement agencies respect the legal states of juveniles, promote their well-being, and avoid any harm to young suspects or offenders.

Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power

Adopted in 1985, this Declaration defines victims and their rights, and aims to ensure that police, justice, health, social services and other personnel dealing with victims are able to provide proper and prompt aid.

Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment

Adopted in 1988, the Body of Principles reaffirms that no one in any sort of detention or imprisonment shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or to any form of violence or threats.

Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions

Recommended by the Economic and Social Council in 1989, this document defines principles concerning the arbitrary deprivation of life, and sets up measures to be taken by government to prevent, investigate and take legal proceedings in relation to extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions. The Principles should be taken into account and respected by governments within the framework of their national legislation and practices.

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

Adopted in 1989, the CRC recognizes the rights of children, including child suspects, and requires that every child alleged to have infringed the penal law should be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child's sense of dignity and worth. A Committee on the Rights of the Child was established, but it does not accept individual cases.

Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials

Adopted in 1990, during the 8th United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, these principles set up a series of human rights standards regarding the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials. They function as the global standards for police agencies worldwide, although they are not enforceable in law.

United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-Custodial Measures ("The Tokyo Rules")

Adopted in 1990, the Tokyo Rules are basic principles set up by the United Nations in order to promote the use of non-custodial measures in punishment, as well as minimum safeguards for persons subject to alternatives to imprisonment.

United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty

Adopted in 1990, these rules are intended to establish minimum standards for the protection of juveniles deprived of their liberty in all forms, consistent with human rights and fundamental freedoms, and with a view to counteracting the detrimental effects of all types of detention and to fostering integration in society.

Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance

Adopted in 1992, this body of principles arose from a deep concern in the United Nations that in many countries there were persistent reports of enforced disappearance caused by officials of different levels of the government, often police officials.

Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women

Adopted in 1993, this Declaration requires governments to develop policies that will eliminate violence against women; and sets standards for government and law enforcement agencies to combat such violence, particularly sexual violence.

Principles Relating to the Status and Functioning of National Institutions for Protection and Promotion of Human Rights ("Paris Principles")

Set of internationally recognized standards created to guide states in the setting up of effective human rights commissions. The Paris Principles were endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993.

United Nation Convention against Corruption (CAC)

Adopted in 2003 but not yet in force, the CAC calls for international cooperation to prevent and control corruption, and to promote integrity, accountability and proper management of public affairs and property.