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How do cops think about assemblies in Africa? Can training help?

last modified Oct 10, 2017 04:15 PM
Large scale public assemblies, and particularly political protests, are frequent flashpoints for interactions between police and the public all over the world, during which the police may—lawfully or unlawfully—resort to the use of force.


The importance of the manner in which law enforcement officials police assemblies for the enjoyment of a number of human rights, including the right to life, has long been recognised. CGHR’s study on Unlawful Killings in Africa dedicated a chapter to the question, and former-Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Christof Heyns, partnered with fellow Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai to produce a landmark special report to the Human Rights Council in 2016 on the proper management of assemblies (A/HRC/31/66). Most recently the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted new Guidelines on the Policing of Assemblies by Law Enforcement Officials in Africa.
Both the UN report and the African Commission’s Guidelines drew heavily upon local consultations, but it nonetheless remains the case that we know very little about how police officers themselves perceive public assemblies, and to what extent these perceptions condition their actions.
However, an opportunity beckons: the African Commission has also developed (with assistance of the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum and the Danish Institute for Human Rights) a training programme designed to introduce the continental standards to police officers themselves. The delivery of this training can provide many opportunities to survey police officers about their attitudes, both before and after the training. For this purpose, CGHR Research Associate Thomas Probert was asked to developed a questionnaire to go alongside the training programme. It is hoped that the results of this survey will provide insights both into the effectiveness of the training itself, and also a guide as to future areas of emphasis or policy intervention.
Last month, Thomas travelled to Mahé to participate in a pilot of the training, delivered to the Legal Group of the East African Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (EAPCCO). A French version of the questionnaire is currently being delivered during the second pilot in Ouagadougou. After digesting the results of these two pilots, Thomas will present some initial findings (in terms of the development of the questionnaire) at CGHR later this year.