Constitutional Provisions

The Constitution of Sweden comprises four fundamental laws: the Instrument of Government, the Act of Succession, the Freedom of the Press Act, and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression. Article 2 of Chapter 1 of the Instrument of Government states that: 

Public power shall be exercised with respect for the equal worth of all and the liberty and dignity of the individual which inter alia includes that the public institutions shall promote the ideals of democracy as guidelines in all sectors of society and protect the private and family lives of the individual. 

According to Article 1 of Chapter 2, everyone is guaranteed the rights to freedom of assembly: '"that is, the freedom to organise or attend meetings for the purposes of information or the expression of opinion or for any other similar purpose, or for the purpose of presenting artistic work"); and the freedom to demonstrate ("that is, the freedom to organise or take part in demonstrations in a public place"). 

Under Article 6: “Everyone shall be protected in their relations with the public institutions against any physical violation...." 

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

Under Section 8(a) of the 1984 Police Act, a police officer on duty

shall, with due observance of the provisions of acts and other statutory instruments, intervene in a way that is justifiable in view of the object of the intervention and other circumstances. If he has to use force, the form and level of force used shall be limited to that required to achieve the intended result.

This incorporates the principle of necessity but not the principles of proportionality and precaution. 

The use of firearms is not specifically regulated under the Act. Regulations on use of firearms date back more than 50 years and have not been updated.

Police Oversight

The Swedish Police Authority under the Ministry of Justice has a department responsible for handling of cases concerning offences by police officers. A Department of Special Investigations was established in 2015 within the police at national level, including seven regional investigation units. The department is an independent organisation of the Swedish Police Authority.



Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

In its 2014 Concluding Observations on Sweden, the Committee against Torture expressed its concern 

at reported cases of ill-treatment and excessive use of force by the police, the lack of independent, impartial and effective investigations of such incidents and the absence of an independent body for investigation of complaints of police misconduct.

The Committee again urged Sweden "to ensure prompt, impartial and effective investigation by an independent body into all allegations of ill-treatment and excessive use of force by
law enforcement officials".

In 2016, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern "about reports of excessive use of force by law enforcement officers, including as a result of using expandable bullets." It was also "that the new Department of Special Investigations mandated to investigate all allegations of excessive use of force and other police misconduct may not be perceived as independent by the public at large, given its operation within the Swedish Police Authority.” 


In 2012, a case against Sweden for, inter alia, police use of expanding ammunition, was judged inadmissible by the European Court of Human Rights. In 2005, 22-year-old Daniel Franklert Murne was shot dead by police in his parents’ home in Lindesberg, Sweden, using hollow-point ammunition. Mr Murne had suffered from a psychosis and needed medical care.Civil Rights Defenders, "Case on Police Shooting Judged Inadmissible by the European Court", Press release, 4 July 2012, at:


In 2018, a Stockholm court acquitted police officers who fired 25 shots at a man with Down’s syndrome while he played with a toy gun. Prosecutors charged three officers with negligence and misconduct in the events leading up to the fatal shooting of Eric Torell, 20, in August 2018. But the court was unable to establish with certainty that the police were wrong to use lethal force. “It may seem remarkable that the police fired a total of 25 shots at the time,” the court’s chief counsel, Erik Lindberg, said in a statement. “[But] neither the medical nor the technical investigation has been able to establish the order of the shots or the man’s detailed movements and body position when he was hit.”


Constitution of Sweden

Swedish Police Act (with commentary)

Committee against Torture Concluding Observations on Sweden (2014)

Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations on Sweden (2016)