Constitutional Provisions

The 1944 Constitution of Iceland (as amended) does not explicitly protect the right to lifeThe 2011 draft of a new Constitution explicitly protects the right to life from birth.although it excludes the death penaltyArt. 69, 1944 Constitution of Iceland (as amended).and it is stipulated that:

No one may be subjected to torture or any other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.Art. 68, 1944 Constitution of Iceland (as amended).

The Constitution further provides that:

People are free to assemble unarmed. Public gatherings may be attended by police. Public gatherings in the open may be banned if it is feared that riots may ensue.Art. 74, 1944 Constitution of Iceland (as amended). 

The Constitution does not otherwise refer to the police.

Iceland is in the process of drafting a new Constitution.

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 State Party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints Yes
CAT Optional Protocol 1 State Party
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party

Regional Treaties

Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties
1950 European Convention on Human Rights State Party

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

Use of force by the Icelandic Police is governed by the 1996 Police Act (as amended). Article 14 of the Act provides that:

Those who exercise police authority may use force in the course of executing their duties. At no time, however, may they use force to a greater extent than is necessary on each given occasion.

The Icelandic Police do not routinely carry firearms.

As of August 2018, police in Iceland were said to be prioritising which calls to actually send officers to respond to, owing to a shortage of both staff and funding. There are no Icelandic armed forces.

Use of Force in Custodial Settings 

Article 11 of the Act of the Execution of Sentences No. 15/2016 authorizes use of force against a prisoner if it is considered necessary. A doctor shall immediately be summoned if there is a suspicion that the use of force was harmful.

Prison staff may use force in carrying out their duties if this is considered necessary in order to:

1. Prevent an escape.

2. Defend themselves against an imminent attack, overpower violent resistance, prevent a prisoner from harming himself or others and to prevent acts of vandalism.

3. To follow orders that need to be carried out immediately and a prisoner refuses or neglects to comply with instructions regarding them. Force may involve physical holding or the use of the appropriate defensive equipment. However, the use of force shall never exceed what is necessary at each time.

Following the use of force, a doctor shall be summoned if there is a suspicion that it has resulted in injury, in cases involving disease or if the prisoner himself requests medical assistance.

If a person under the age of 18 is confined in a home of the child protection authorities, then the employees may use force in carrying out their duties according to the conditions of the first paragraph, provided they have received the appropriate training in the use of force. The use of force may only be used in an emergency and only when other measures are not possible.

Police Oversight

The National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police (NCIP) has issued an action plan on Gender Equality within the Police which aims at promoting equality and equal opportunities for men and women regarding professional development and representation irrespective of sex, sexual orientation, social standing or race. 

In 2015, the Minister of Interior "appointed a special committee whose task was to make suggestions on how to improve the handling of complaints against the police to emphasize the importance of these issues and make sure that citizens knew that any complaints they had were given due attention".Iceland Periodic Report under CAT (2018). 



Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

There has been no recent review of the actions of the Icelandic Police by a United Nations treaty body.


There has been no case alleging excessive use of force by the Iceland Police before the European Court of Human Rights.


In 2013, a 59-year old man with a history of mental illness was shot and killed by police in December 2013. The man had opened fire at police when they entered his building. This was the first time a person had been killed by armed police in Iceland since it became an independent republic in 1944.

In 2017, two capital area police officers were charged with excessive use of force for their actions during an arrest which left one man with a double leg fracture.


1944 Constitution of Iceland (as amended)

2011 Draft Constitution of Iceland

1996 Police Act of Iceland

Execution of Sentences Act No. 15 (2016)

Iceland Periodic Report under CAT (2018)