Amnesty International's Concerns about Tasers: Additional Information

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Canada: Call for Moratorium on use of Tasers®

News Releases

USA: Safety of Tasers questioned as death toll hits 334-mark

Public Statement

Canada: Amnesty International reiterates call to suspend police use of tasers following airport death (16 November, 2007)


'Less than Lethal': The use of stun weapons in US Law Enforcement (16 December 2008)

'Less than Lethal': The use of stun weapons in US Law Enforcement - List of Fatalities (16 December 2008)

USA: Briefing on tasers to the US Justice Department (October, 2007)

Canada: Inappropriate and excessive use of tasers (May 2007)

USA: Amnesty International concerned at use of tasers in Florida (18 September 2007)

USA: Excessive and lethal force? Amnesty International’s concerns about deaths and ill-treatment involving police use of tasers (November 2004)

Canada: Excessive and lethal force? Amnesty International’s concerns about deaths and ill-treatment involving police use of tasers (November 2004)


BC Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner 2004 Interim report on Taser Technology

BC Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner 2005 Final report on Taser Technology Review

Canadian Police Research Centre Review of Conducted Energy Devices (August 2005)

Taser International


Amnesty International's concerns about Tasers

A Taser gun and its bullets are on display 09 October 2007 at France's Milipol global security trade fair at the Porte de Versailles exposition centre in Paris, shows bullets ... JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images

What is a "TASER"?

“TASER” is the brand name for one of a number of weapons within the general category of Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs).

CEDs are high voltage, low current electrical weapons designed to cause temporary incapacitation through involuntary muscular disruption. They include traditional stun guns and projectile weapons. In North America the most common weapons are TASERS® and Stinger® Handheld Projectile Stun Guns.

TASERs can be used in both drive stun mode (directly touching the person) and dart-firing mode.

In Canada it is illegal for anyone other than authorized police officers to possess or use CEDs.

Amnesty International's concerns:

Amnesty International is concerned about both deaths following use of TASERs and reports of excessive use of force involving TASERs.

The device has been widely deployed without the necessary independent information to establish genuine safety parameters. This is in stark contrast to other police equipment, such as pepper spray, for which the safety parameters are well established and there are a number of intensity options within this category alone to choose from.

International human rights standards on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials support the development of a range of use of force options. The goal should be to use the least amount of force necessary in any given situation. The use of force decisions made by police in what are often very challenging and difficult circumstances need to be well informed decisions. Amnesty International supports the development of “less-lethal" force options to decrease the risk of death or injury inherent in police use of firearms or other impact weapons such as batons.

However, Amnesty International has serious concerns about the use of electro-shock devices in general, both in terms of their safety and their potential for misuse. Portable and easy to use, with the capacity to inflict severe pain at the push of a button without leaving substantial marks, electro-shock weapons are particularly open to abuse. Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of serious abuses involving electro-shock weapons around the world.

There may be “stand-off” situations where TASERs in dart-firing mode could effectively be used as an alternative to firearms to save lives. However, the potential to use TASERs in drive-stun mode – where they are used as “pain compliance” tools when individuals are already effectively in custody – and the capacity to inflict multiple and prolonged shocks, renders the weapons inherently open to abuse.

Amnesty International’s position on TASERs and CEDs:

Amnesty International calls on all governments and law enforcement agencies to either cease using TASERs and similar devices pending the results of thorough, independent studies, or restrict their use to situations where officers would otherwise be justified in resorting to deadly force where no lesser alternatives are available.

Our additional recommendations include:

Updated: 17 December 2008