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MN Protocol Adopted Worldwide, But Not in U.S.

The updated Minnesota Protocol is also known as The Revised United Nations Manual on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. (Falcon Photography)
The updated Minnesota Protocol is also known as The Revised United Nations Manual on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. (Falcon Photography)
December 27, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS – A nonprofit group in Minnesota has written – and most recently, helped revise – guidelines to protect human rights.

Those guidelines are known as the Minnesota Protocol, although they are better known and more widely used outside the state.

The guidelines were developed by The Advocates for Human Rights in the 1980s, and published by the United Nations in 1991. A giant project to revise them has wrapped up, and the U.N. published the updated Minnesota Protocol last year.

Stuart Maslen, an author and professor in Britain and South Africa, was the project manager.

He notes, "We (now) have DNA, we didn't have that capacity back in the 1980s. We've got digital photography. You've got advances in standards for the protection of life against police killings or army killings."

Maslen says technology has changed, but the purpose of the guidelines has not. It is to protect individuals against abuse of human rights.

The Minnesota Protocol has been used in investigations in Bosnia, Guatemala, Rwanda and lately, in the Middle East.

Maslen says it has not been adopted by the U.S. or by individual states. He hopes that will change, but thinks it is unlikely in the Trump administration. He notes the protocol's standard for when police can open fire is tougher than the current federal standards, or Minnesota's.

"It is only when absolutely necessary to protect against imminent threat of death or serious injury,” he says. “But actually, the standard in Minnesota is much weaker, and says 'only when necessary to protect against apparent death or great bodily harm.'"

Maslen says U.S. jurisdictions could come closer to meeting the international standard if police were better trained to not overreact in complex situations.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Protocol is serving as an international checklist – not just in policing, but handling evidence and investigations.

Laurie Stern, Public News Service - MN