Police and human rights defenders
© Amnesty International

Short paper series no 4: Police and human rights defenders

In 2018, PHRP finalised the fourth paper of the short paper series on police and human rights defenders. Across the world, more and more human rights defenders focus on policing related issues or come into contact with police while carrying out their human rights activities. In particular, human rights defenders increasingly engage in monitoring the work of police with a view to strive for greater respect of human rights of those who are affected by police actions. However, policing is a complex topic and working within its context without good level of knowledge and understanding of how police operate bears risks, both to the credibility of the defender and the effectiveness of their work as well as their safety and the safety of those whose rights they are seeking to promote and protect.

This paper aims to serve as a compact capacity building tool for human rights defenders who are new to, or have limited experience in, working in the context of policing. To that end, it provides an overview of different elements to consider when encountering the police, taking into account not only the human rights perspective but also the police perspective. It highlights where to exercise caution to avoid or mitigate risks for themselves or others, as well as how to effectively address human rights problems in relation to policing. For human rights organisations providing training to defenders on how to work on policing issues, this paper may also provide helpful guidance on elements to include in their training sessions. Even very experienced human rights defenders may find some new or interesting elements in this paper.