Training Law Enforcement for Prevention of Ill-Treatment and Torture

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In this major theme area of concerns of law enforcement officers themselves, please share your questions, ideas, stories and experiences regarding
the following:

  • Rights of Law Enforcement Officers
    • How are concerns and rights of individual law enforcement officers regarding such areas as pay, time-off, working conditions, equipment, disciplinary actions and grievance procedures, etc., addressed in trainings?
  • Ethical Issues and Concerns
    • In what ways do trainings explore the ethical structure of law enforcement practice that entails a higher level of responsibility and accountability?
    • How can trainings provide opportunities to explore situations and contexts where legal obligations contradict ethical commitments?
  • Addressing traumatic stress and burnout issues
    • What training tools and methods have you found helpful with law enforcement personnel for raising their awareness of these issues and building their coping skills?
    • What are the barriers that face law enforcement personnel in building support and assistance for addressing traumatic stress and burnout?
Rights of law enforcement officers and ethical structure

Ibrahim Hassan Omar Elghazawi,PhD
Humphrey Fellow
Human Rights Center
University of Minnesota:

These two topics are of great significance, in fact they both raise several issues, and I would love to share them with you to have your input :

First: Concerns of law enforcement officers:

  • Are law enforcement officers entitled, on equal basis with other public employees, to get fully paid holidays and vacations?
  • How would working more than 8 hours a day affect performance nature?
  • How far a community can expect LEOs effective role when they themselves are under heavy stress form their work place?
  • Will the community witness some difference when law enforcement officers concerns are efficiently addressed?
  • How can poor working conditions reflect on the personal line of performance?

Second:Professional Ethics of law enforcement officers:
Every profession has an ethical structure of practice, that ethical standard is sometimes holding a particular job occupant in a higher level of responsibility than individuals in other profession are. Within law enforcement setting this ethical structure is largely true in terms of police work…in that context several questions are raised:

  • Are LEOs  held in a higher level of responsibility and accountability than other public employees in the community? And why?
  • If the answer is “yes” would that entail additional benefits to LEOs to justify their being held in higher level of accountability?
  • What would happen if legal obligations contradict ethical commitments of LEOs?
  • Will the ethical structure for LEOs  be a guarantee to  keeping the police role sticking to the community interests ?
  • Is the ethical structure for LEOs considered part of the community ethical entity ? or is it rather part  of that one of official state and ruling system?
  • What difference would it make for the police ethics to be community –based or Government-based?


Training and corruption?

I think the issue of human rights of police officers is a crucial one. All too often (especially) rank and file officers find themselves more or less at the mercy of their superiors. This is almost all-encompassing: when they can take leave (if at all), transfers to the other side of the country, promotion possibilities, equipment  and also available training opportunities, and many other issues.

In quite a few countries these issues are directly related to (internal) corruption. Police have to pay to be able to enter the force, to enter training and then again to enter any kind of follow up training or training for particular jobs. 'Entrance fees' paid can be as high as 3000 US dollars. Where does the money go to? Quite often this is a public secret: everyone knows what are the more lucrative positions within the force. Yet what can be done to counter this phenomenon?

Police officers are human

Thanks Anneke..I like what you said and find it very relevant , as it gives a realistic vision of officers sufferings, and although many wouldn't pay attention to this particular side of police issues, it is crucial in shaping officer’s attitude in general and specifically in terms of human- rights- related police practices.I really needn't to say that one who lost respect wouldn't be able to give it to others.... In some African countries, police officers stay more that 15 hrs a day on duty, and sometimes one may spend few consecutive days in work places without extra benefits or commensurate time off..and they hardly have holidays with their families or vacations, adds to marginalization in decision making process, if we sum up  all these and link them with low-pay factor and poor level of policy-planning transparency you will have an explosive outcome..what would we expect out of all these miserable mess.

Ibrahim Hassan Elghazawi,PhD Humphrey Fellow Human Rights Center School of law University of Minnesota 

More on corruption

 I quite agree that corruption is a terrible blot on the human rights landscape. For your information earlier this year the Geneva based International Council on Human Rights Policy issued an extremely interesting report titled Corruption and Human Rights: Making the Connection. The report develops a conceptual framework enabling users to describe, in specific terms, how violations of human rights may be linked to particular acts of corruption. It sets out why those working on corruption and those working on human rights have reasons to cooperate, and delineates the main features of the two traditions of practice. It also builds links between specific acts of corruption and specific violations of rights – recognising that the links are sometimes indirect and that in some cases corruption may not violate human rights, strictly understood. I would certainly urge interested persons to have a look at the report. Here is the link

Negative Resilience

In my opinion some of the better work on police traumatic exposure looks at resilience and coping strategies. Dr Merle Friedman proposes that we talk about "negative resilience", a coping style based on avoidance, denial, numbing, dissociation and often supported by substance abuse. The word resilience is important since Dr Friedman suggests that many police officers survive multple exposures in the line of duty over many years using this approach. The word negative is appropriate because it is a very limited form of resilience that comes at a cost. The primary cost is the loss of a full range of human emotion and with it the potential damage to relationships, passion for life, caring about other people and the work, and so forth. So many police officers start out in their careers with a vision of themselves protecting the innocent and building safer societies, and then over time this vision gets eroded by the realities of the work. And of course, there is very thin line between just doing the job because it's your work and corruption.

The longer term cost is that ultimately Dr Friedman argues that negative resilience crumbles leaving the officer without adequate internal resources to resolve experiences of trauma and loss.

A broader understanding of the impact of repeated exposure to life threatening events helps us draw together issues of poor performance, burn out, work related PTSD, corruption, substance abuse, and breakdowns in personal and professional relationships - all problems that plague policing agencies across the world.

 We need to  be training new police officers in healthy coping and positive resilience. An example is training officers how to consciously strengthen their psychological defenses for situations in which they are in danger or dealing with aggressive offenders (something that most police officers in my experience do naturally) and then consciously opening their defenses again when they are in safe places, having an important conversation with a collegue or at home with partners and children (something that in my experience many police officers are less able to do).

Human rights of police officials

New Tactics wrote:

In this major theme area of concerns of law enforcement officers themselves, please share your questions, ideas, stories and experiences regarding the following:

  • Rights of Law Enforcement Officers
    • How are concerns and rights of individual law enforcement officers regarding such areas as pay, time-off, working conditions, equipment, disciplinary actions and grievance procedures, etc., addressed in trainings?
  • Ethical Issues and Concerns
    • In what ways do trainings explore the ethical structure of law enforcement practice that entails a higher level of responsibility and accountability?
    • How can trainings provide opportunities to explore situations and contexts where legal obligations contradict ethical commitments?
  • Addressing traumatic stress and burnout issues
    • What training tools and methods have you found helpful with law enforcement personnel for raising their awareness of these issues and building their coping skills?
    • What are the barriers that face law enforcement personnel in building support and assistance for addressing traumatic stress and burnout?

 'The human rights of police' is a very important subject and I prepared a paper on this which might be useful. It's 9 pages long and (because of its length) I may be committing a very serious breach of etiquette for this sort of exercise by offering it here - Nancy please tell me if that is the case and I'll apologise profusely and smite my breast in contrition.


Policing is an exacting vocation – emotionally, intellectually and physically. It can be dangerous and uncomfortable. Whilst due regard for the human rights of police cannot remove all of the dangers and discomforts, it can remove some and it can alleviate others. It is important to attend to the human rights of police in order to promote the well being of police, and in order to reinforce a culture supportive of human rights within police agencies. The relationship between human rights and policing is needlessly contentious and incongruous, and it is helpful to consider the human rights of police within the context of this broader relationship.

 The relationship between human rights and policing   

This relationship can be usefully regarded as having four components: respect, protect, investigate, and entitlement.

Police are required to respect human rights in the exercise of their powers. This aspect of the relationship is the most commonly addressed, because one of the primary purposes of human rights is to protect people from abuse of power by the state. Human rights limit police powers, exercised on behalf of the state, to use force, to deprive people of their liberty, and to carry out search and surveillance activities or operations. They require humane treatment of detainees. Equally, the lawful and reasonable exercise of police powers may legitimately limit human rights. Most of the jurisprudence of human rights institutions concerning police acts or omissions arises from this aspect of the relationship.
Police are expected to protect human rights in the performance of their functions. For example in their crime prevention task police endeavour to prevent murder and other unlawful killings. Failure to do so can, in certain circumstances, mean that the right to life has been violated.(1) In their investigative function police are required to gather evidence and present it to courts in order that guilt or innocence may be decided. When these processes are carried out lawfully the right to a fair trial is reinforced. That right is subverted through the presentation of false evidence, or evidence unlawfully or unfairly obtained.(2) When police maintain or restore order they contribute to the protection of all human rights, for when social order breaks down all human rights are vulnerable.

Police have a duty to investigate human rights violations because, in the first instance, some violations, such as violations of the right to life and of the prohibition of torture, are very serious crimes. Furthermore, human rights instruments (3) and the jurisprudence of human rights institutions (4) require that alleged or suspected violations of human rights should be investigated. Whilst it has not been specified that police should carry out these investigations, indeed in some cases it would not be appropriate for them to do so, in many cases it is inevitable that police will investigate. Prompt, impartial and effective investigation of human rights abuse reinforces other measures to ensure respect for and protection of human rights, including human rights of police.


These three aspects of the relationship between human rights and policing are often contested by some police officials. In effect they argue that they are justified in violating human rights in order to deliver effective policing. The claim that police officials, law enforcement officials, need to break the law in order to enforce the law is incongruous. In fact it is absurd and it is inimical to human rights and subversive of the rule of law.


Every police official is entitled, as is every other person, to human rights. Furthermore police officials, as members of a particular type of occupational group, have specific needs and entitlements in relation to human rights. These points are developed in the next section. 


The human rights of police officials

 The universality of human rights and the obligations on states to secure human rights 

Human rights derive from the inherent dignity and worth of the human person and they are universal, indivisible and interdependent. These characteristics of human rights indicate their inclusivity; they apply to all members of the human family. Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone is entitled to all of the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration without distinction of any kind such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.


The obligation to secure human rights rests upon states. All member states of the United Nations are bound under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.(5) States are also bound, under the various human rights treaties to which they are parties, to ensure respect for and protection of the rights of individuals within their jurisdiction according to the terms of those treaties. For example, article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires High Contracting parties to secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in Section 1 of the Convention. Article 14 of the Convention stipulates that the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in the Convention shall be secured without discrimination. It then lists a number of grounds similar to those set out in article 2 of the Universal Declaration. Article 13 of the Convention requires that everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in the Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national tribunal notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.(6)


In sum, everyone is entitled to human rights, including police officials. States are required to secure those rights to all within their jurisdiction without discrimination and, when they fail to do so, they have to provide an effective remedy for the violation. When they fail to do that, providing certain other conditions are fulfilled, an individual can have recourse to an international institution, for example the European Court of Human Rights, to secure redress.

 Although it is not a common occurrence, police officials have had recourse to international institutions in order to secure their rights. For example, in Halford v. the United Kingdom, (7) the applicant, a senior police official, claimed that calls made from her home and her office telephones were intercepted for the purposes of obtaining information to use against her in proceedings she was bringing at an Industrial Tribunal. She had instituted those proceedings alleging that she had been discriminated against on grounds of sex. The European Court of Human Rights concluded that the conversations held by Ms Halford on her office telephones fell within the scope of the notions of "private life" and "correspondence". The Court found that here had been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention, which protects the right to private and family life, in relation to the interception of calls made on the applicant's office telephones, but felt that there was insufficient evidence to suggest that calls made from her home telephone were being intercepted.  
In Munoz Hermoza v. Peru (8) the author of the communication was an ex-sergeant of the Guardia Civil (police). He alleged that he had been temporarily suspended from the Guardia Civil on 25 September 1978 on false accusations of having insulted a superior but, when he was brought before a judge on 28 September 1978 on that charge, he was immediately released for lack of evidence. Nevertheless, by administrative decision dated 30 January 1984, he was discharged from service. The author claimed that after having served in the Guardia Civil for over 20 years he had been arbitrarily deprived of his livelihood and of his acquired rights, including accrued retirement rights, thus leaving him in a state of destitution, particularly considering that he had eight children to feed and clothe. He then spent 10 years going through numerous and diverse domestic administrative and judicial instances seeking reinstatement in the Guardia Civil, without success.  

In considering the merits of this case, the Human Rights Committee noted that the concept of a fair hearing, as set out in article 14.1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, necessarily entails that justice be rendered without undue delay. It reviewed the multifarious domestic procedures followed by the author, observing in particular that an administrative review kept pending for seven years constituted an unreasonable delay, and concluded that such a seemingly endless sequence of instances and the repeated failure to implement decisions were incompatible with the principle of a fair hearing.

The Committee was of the view that the events of this case disclosed a violation of article 14, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The State party was under an obligation, in accordance with the provisions of article 2 of the Covenant, to take effective measures to remedy the violations suffered by Rubén Toribio Muñoz Hermoza, including payment of adequate compensation for the loss suffered.

The specific nature of the entitlement of police to human rights  

It is a fundamental principle of human rights protection that human rights apply equally to all members of the human family, and this principle should not be lost in distinguishing between the differing needs and entitlements of various social groups. However, it is recognised that special provisions have to be made to secure the human rights of vulnerable categories of people, for example women and children.(9) Moreover, it is evident that some groups, for example occupational groups, will regard some human rights as more important than others; that different conditions need to be fulfilled in order to secure the human rights of different groups; and that states have differing types of obligations to secure rights for the various groups. For example it is to be expected that the right to freedom of opinion and expression (10) will be regarded as extremely important by journalists, whereas police officials may consider that the right to equal access to public service (11) has great importance because unfair criteria for appointments to public service may have prevented them from following their chosen profession.


Regarding the conditions that need to be fulfilled to secure human rights for different occupational groups, and differing obligations on states in this respect, it is instructive to consider the requirement on states to protect the right to life. The conditions to be fulfilled in order to protect the right to life of a journalist, or a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, working in a war zone, are different to those to be fulfilled in order to protect the right to life of a police official. They each require information and skills, hence training and briefing, and they each require equipment. However, because the nature of their tasks and the conditions under which they carry them out differ, their training needs and equipment differ. Furthermore, as police officials are state officials there is a direct obligation on the state to train and equip them, in fact the obligation is wider than that, whereas the state has no such direct obligation in relation to the journalist and the ICRC delegate.


In order to illustrate the nature and extent of the obligation on the state to protect the right to life of police, and how it may happen that a state fails to meet this obligation, I would like to recall a situation that arose during a human rights programme for police I was conducting in a Member State of the Council of Europe for the Council. During a discussion on the right to life the participants explained that a large number of police officials had been killed in the course of their duties during the previous year. They gave a figure for police deaths that seemed excessively high, even though the incidence of violent crime in that country was also high. In spite of the large number of murders of police, the participants claimed that not one of the incidents had been analysed with a view to taking preventive and protective action in the future. Hence no changes had been made in selecting, training, equipping, briefing and deploying police officials in response to the killings. If their account was accurate then, clearly, there had been a gross failure on the part of the police leadership and the government, and the state had not met its obligation to protect the right to life of its police officials.(12)


International standards for police on equipment, including protective equipment, and on selection, training, and counselling, are set out in the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. (13) These principles express professional, practical standards on the use of force and firearms by police, and on the personal safety of police officials. Whilst not legally binding, they indicate some of the conditions that need to be fulfilled by states in order that they may meet their treaty obligations to protect the right to life of all those involved, including police, in operations where force or firearms may be used by police.

 It is not my purpose in this paper to examine the full range of human rights from the point of view of police entitlements, but some of the economic social and cultural rights clearly have great significance for police. For example, the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring an existence worthy of human dignity (14) is important for police officials everywhere, and for the communities they serve. Governments need to ensure that police pay and conditions of service are sufficient to maintain the human dignity of police officials, and to provide a bulwark against corruption.  
The onus on governments in this respect is particularly strong because human rights treaties allow for the imposition of lawful restrictions on members of armed forces and of the police in the exercise of the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of their interests. (15) 

The rights of police in times of armed conflict


Police officials are generally insufficiently aware of the principles and provisions of international humanitarian law, or the law of armed conflict, that are relevant to police officials and police operations in times of armed conflict. The purposes of this branch of public international law are to regulate the conduct of hostilities and to protect victims of armed conflicts. International humanitarian law imposes obligations on parties to armed conflicts, and comes into force only when armed conflict occurs. Its provisions are not generally expressed as rights, but the obligations they impose on parties to armed conflicts can provide forms of protection to police officials in ways similar to some human rights.

 International humanitarian law consists of two sets of treaty law ("Hague Law" and "Geneva Law") plus a number of customary rules. The two strands of treaty law are distinguished in that Hague Law governs the conduct of hostilities - the permissible means and methods of warfare, whereas Geneva Law is concerned with the protection of victims of war. An example of Hague Law is the 1907 Hague Convention lV Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land. Since they first entered into force many of the Hague Regulations have been developed or superseded by the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. In fact the distinction between the two sets of treaty law is not now quite so marked, as they are merging to some extent through these later treaty provisions. Geneva Law is largely contained in the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. These treaties make provision for combatants who become victims of war - either as sick, wounded or shipwrecked casualties, or prisoners of war (in the first, second and third Conventions), and for the protection of civilians in time of war (in the very long and detailed fourth Convention). Apart from article 3 Common to all four Conventions, all of the Conventions’ provisions concern the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. In 1977 two Protocols Additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions were adopted. The first Protocol, relating to international armed conflicts, up-dates and elaborates existing rules of combat as well as rules for the protection of war victims, bringing about the partial fusion of "Hague” and "Geneva" law referred to above. The second Protocol supplements the provisions of article 3 Common to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which contains a number of obligations binding on the parties to non-international armed conflicts.  

The relationship between police and international humanitarian law can be characterised in much the same terms as those used in characterising the relationship between police and human rights - police officials are required to comply with its provisions, and to protect victims of armed conflict and the civilian population. They may be called upon to investigate crimes arising out of armed conflict; (16) and they can benefit from various forms of protection available under international humanitarian law.


The provisions of international humanitarian law relevant to police and police operations in times of conflict are many and detailed. My purpose in raising this matter in this context is simply to point out that there are benefits arising for police officials when this branch of law is complied with, just as there are when human rights law is complied with. For example, in an international armed conflict, some members of armed law enforcement agencies that have been incorporated into the armed forces of a party to a conflict have combatant status.(17) This means that they have some forms of protection on the battlefield, and are entitled to treatment as prisoners of war in the event of capture by the adverse party. However, the majority of police, as members of civilian police agencies, would have civilian and not combatant status in the event of such a conflict. This means that they would be entitled to the protection afforded to the civilian population set out in 1949 Geneva Convention lV and 1977 Additional Protocol l.  


1949 Geneva Convention lV relating to the protection of civilians requires any civilian, military, police or other authorities who in time of war assume responsibilities in respect of protected persons, to possess the text of the Convention and be specially instructed as to its provisions.(18) 1977 Geneva Protocol 1 requires any military or civilian authorities who, in time of armed conflict, assume responsibilities in respect of the application of the Conventions and the Protocol, to be fully acquainted with the text thereof.(19) Perhaps these obligations on High Contracting Parties could also be regarded as rights of police officials.


Concluding remarks

 The focus of this conference on the human rights of police officials it to be welcomed. The human rights of police are an extremely important aspect of the relationship between human rights and policing. Focusing on this aspect should enable the relationship to develop into one that is less contentious and incongruous.
Notes and References  

1. See, for example, Osman v. the United Kingdom (judgement of 28 October 1998, Reports of Judgements and Decisions 1998‑VIII) in which the European Court of Human Rights observed that article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights may imply, in certain well-defined circumstances, a positive obligation on the authorities to take preventive operational measures to protect an individual whose life is at risk from the criminal acts of another individual.

 2. See, for example, Barbera, Messegue and Jabardo v. Spain, judgement of  6 December 1988, Series A no 146, in which the European Court of Human Rights had reservations about some crucial aspects of the way in which the evidence had been taken and the conduct of the trial proceedings, including the accuseds’ confessions. In this respect, the Court observed that when they made their confessions to the police, they had already been charged but did not have the assistance of a lawyer, although they did not appear to have waived their right to one. Accordingly these confessions, which had been obtained during a long period of custody in which they were held incommunicado, gave rise to reservations on the part of the Court. The Court concluded that the proceedings in question, taken as a whole, did not satisfy the requirements of a fair and public hearing, and that there had been a violation of article 6. 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 3. See, for example, article12 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which requires that each state party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction. 4. See, for example, McCann and Others v. the United Kingdom, judgement of 22 September 1995, Series A no. 324, in which the European Court of Human Rights held that there should be some form of effective official investigation when individuals have been killed as a result of the use of force by the state.  

5. Article 55 (c).

 6. Article 2.1 and 2. 3 (a) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights embodies similar provisions.  7. Judgement of 25 June 1997, Reports of Judgements and Decisions 1997-III. 8. Communication No. 203/1986: Peru 17/11/88.</DIV> CCPR/C/34/D/203/1986. <DIV ALIGN=center>9. See, for example, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 34/180 of 18 December 1979; and the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989. 10. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 11. Article 21.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

12. I am aware that the Council of Europe attempted to arrange for some technical assistance from a police agency of another Member State in order to provide a proper response to this situation but do not know if, or how, it was resolved.

 13. Adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, 27 August – 7 September 1990.  See also the European Code of Police Ethics (Recommendation [2001] 10 adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 10 September 2001).   14. Article 23.3, Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 

15. See, for example, articles 22 and 11 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights the European Convention on Human Rights respectively.

 16. The requirement for police officials to investigate such crimes may arise in a number of ways. For example, each of the Geneva Conventions obliges high contracting parties to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing or ordering to be committed grave breaches of the Conventions. They are also required to search for such persons and bring them, regardless of nationality, before their own courts or hand them over for trial to another high contracting party concerned. (Articles 49, 50, 129 and 146 of the four Conventions respectively). See also article 85 of 1977 Geneva Protocol l. Grave breaches are acts such as wilful killing and torture or inhumane treatment when committed against those protected by the Conventions. Police could be involved in various stages of the processes required by these provisions, including investigations. 

Furthermore, in 1988 the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court adopted the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court. This Court has jurisdiction with respect to the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. The Statue entered into force on 1 July 2002, and the Chief Prosecutor took office in 16 June 2003. When the Court begins its operations, police agencies in different countries will be involved in investigating crimes subject to the jurisdiction of the Court.

 17. Article 43. 3 1977 Geneva Protocol l. 18. Article 144. 19. Article 83.2   
Acknowledgement I would like to thank Professor Kevin Boyle of the University of Essex for his comments on the first draft of this paper.     

Resource: Human Rights of Police Article - in PDF format


Thank you so much for sharing this in-depth article on this very important topic area. 

It can be rather difficult to read pieces of such length on line. I've made it into a PDF available here titled "The Human Rights of Police" for people to have the opportunity to download it in that format to read. I think it is a great resource for people to have.

I have also placed the article in the New Tactics group that has been formed regarding this topic: Police Training to prevent human rights abuse - if you are interested to join this group, just follow the link and click on the "join" button.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Officers rights to join Police Association can be curtailed

In many developed countries, police officers have the right to join police associations or unions. But in Africa and other developing countries police officers in active service are barred form becoming members of police associations. In Africa two countries stand out in respecting the rights of officers to associate: South Africa, which allows police officers to join the trade unions, and Liberia, which also allows law enforcmenet officers to join the law enforecment association. Ghana and other countries only allow for retired officers to join the police association.

My question is why are some governments hesitant in allowing police officers in active service in becoming members of a police association? Is that not a violation of the officers rights? Can any one give reasons for this?  


Re: Officers rights to join Police Association can be curtailed

I do believe that that ban is based on the false idea of having an officer who is totally committed and completely devoted to his official organization, it might be the fear from side effects on officers after such involvement, as they may end up with developed ideas and turn against their leadership or loose some loyalty towards their political systems, also it might be considered as a waste time for an officer-according to their view- to go and partake in this association or another, which might diverge officers attention away fro their work and duties. After all non of these allegations would change the face of such ban, it is real violations of many rights.


Re: Officers rights to join Police Association can be curtailed

Article 23 of the UDHR:

Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Yes, it's a violation of the officers' rights. As for why, I'd suggest that one reason might be the usual one in other professions - unionized police personnel could increase their bargaining power in wage negotiations.




Officers' rights to join police association can be curtailed

This is an interesting discussion and it's important to be aware of the nature of the right to freedom of association. It is not an absolute right - there are only two absolute rights - the prohibition of torture and the prohibition of slavery.

 For example the right to freedom of association is protected by article 22 of the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as follows:

Article 22

1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

2. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those which are prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on members of the armed forces and of the police in their exercise of this right.

3. Nothing in this article shall authorize States Parties to the International Labour Organisation Convention of 1948 concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize to take legislative measures which would prejudice, or to apply the law in such a manner as to prejudice, the guarantees provided for in that Convention.


So we can see in paragraph 2 that governments are allowed to limit this right in relation to military and police. The same limitation is permitted in the American Convention on Human Rights(article 16) and the European Convention on Human Rights (article 11).

Police Unions vs Police Associations

Thanks Ralph for the references. I now see the basis for some governments refusing to allow police officers to join unions or associations.

Notwithstanding, one would ask, Why would some governments allow police officers to join professional associations, and others would not. Can we say those countries and governments that allow officers to enjoytheir rights to associate are more democratic? Can we distinguish between police unions and professional police associations? If governments are afraid of allowing the unionization of their police force, don't they see thte tremendous benefits that can be brought to bear on the officers, and to the image of the profession itself, if the association really projects a professional outlook  and programs? 

Col. Cecil B. Griffiths, (Liberia) Founder and President of the Liberia National Law Enforcement Association (LINLEA) 


Police Unions v Police Associations

Ralph Crawshaw

 I think that the distinction between unions and associations is a good one to make Cecil.

Probably the main reason for governments seeking to limit the right to freedom of association of police officials and military is to ensure that they don't have the right to strike. Generally trade unions are seen as having the strike option at their disposal whereas associations do not.

 Putting the right to strike aside, there are obvious advantages for governments to allow representative bodies for police so that their members' interests can be represented and presented to governments.

Associations, or unions without the power to strike, seem to be a good way of achieving this.


Concerns of law enforecement officers

During the year 2008, our Center had provided training on the international and national laws against torture and its effects in the eight major regional cities of the country. And during the training the trainees, specially in the regional cities had participated actively and raised questions and discussed very carefully. Most of them were not well aware of the international definition of torture that the Federal Government of Government of Ethiopia had signed. After the end of the training almost 90% percent of the trainees had filled in the evaluation questionnaire that they had found the training as important. Even three of the prison institutions in the regional states had invited us to visit their prison and talk with the prison inmates. And this was very amazing by our Center and important. Thus, concerns of the law enforcement bodies are very important.     

Tekeste Ayalew

Senior Program Officer

Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture in Ethiopia (RCVTE)


In this major theme area of impact and effectiveness, please share your stories, questions, ideas, and experiences regarding
the following:

  • Impact and effectiveness
    • How do we know human rights training and education initiatives make a difference?
    • What you have found useful in helping to identify impact and effectiveness?
  • Stories of success
    • What stories can you share about law enforcement training that have shown areas of success or effectiveness in preventing ill-treatment and torture?
    • What models of training have you found most effective?
    • What kinds of "do" and "don't do" tips can you provide?
Over the years the

Over the years the Association for the Prevention fo Torture (APT) has been involved in the training of a range of public officials who come into direct contact with persons deprived of their liberty. These have included police, prison staff, judges and prosecutors. One of the questions we repeatedly ask ourself is are we making a difference and, if so, how much of one? When the New Tactics team were drawing up the list of topics for this on-line dialogue the issue of impact of human rights education and training initiatives was one we at the APT were very keen to explore and discuss with others. Thus, I would be extremely interested to learn more about the experiences of our colleagues in this respect. Many thanks!    

Training effeciencey

In fact it could be hard to gauge to which extent a training in human rights was a success, I have been working in training field in that subject for years both in Egypt and African countries as part of international activities in the field of Human Rights, and I can be sure about some points:

  1. Training on Human Rights subjects can be more effective when conducted - as strategic obligation- within a decision -making level of officials, while training schemes should focus on individual violations while framing a program to a large-base personnel.
  2. Training shouldn’t focus on theoretical international standards of human rights, but better have them integrated in a more practical models of human rights plans.
  3. Training can be more effective when addressing human rights from realistic stance and not from "above View"  level , it means that  being idealist wouldn't do any good, but being accountable is more real.
  4. In many cases, I had an impression of great value added to law enforcement agents after training was over, and that can be detected easily through the course delivery line and full involvement in talk and discusion.
  5. Still the need does exist widely to pump more and disseminate training of human rights to wider groups of decision makers and med-level officials, where training can be more productive and reflective on policy-reviewing levels, and effective in bringing about tangible changes to current realities.

Ibrahim Hassan Elghazawi,PhD Humphrey Fellow Human Rights Center School of law University of Minnesota 

More on evaluating impact...

Dear Ibrahim,

Please accept my belated thanks for your above thoughts, which were most useful. After reading your comment I was wondering whether in the course of your work in Egypt and in various African countries you had conducted follow-up training events for the same police officers, which incorporated some form of impact evaluation relating to the first activity? We have tried to employ this type of approach in our detention monitoring training. Thus, we conduct an initial training event of around three days, including an initial visit, and then six or so months later we return to see how the monitors are getting on in practice. This gives the participants the opportunity to discuss the problems and challenges they have come across and allows us some insight into the effectiveness of the project. Your thoughts would be very welcome. Thank you very much.         


Assessing Human Righs training

Thanks Matthew  ...It is quite difficult to do the "Accurate Evaluation Step" , the reason simply in any country is more or less the same, let me express how I do vision this important issue:

1- Don't expect any quick responses to you training efforts, such a change is really slow and takes years to achieve tangible improvements.

2- In the area where torture and ill-treatment happen mostly because of individual misdemeanors, training can be most effective, and usually we can integrate the superior level of LEOs into the campaign against torture or human rights violations, by imposing serious sanctions and implementing existing laws that incriminate such activities.

3- The success in the previous hypothesis dictates also getting the media involved in the heart of the efforts to shed the light on any infringements and disclose the violators.

4- Training efforts didn't do much change when focused on base-level officers in countries that exercise human rights violations systematically as part of its usual suppressive attitudes.

5- In some cases it was really helpful trying to integrate as high level officers as possible in these programs, sometimes as trainees, and also as instructors, where we can convey the message of human rights advocacy through them, in such cases normally- when we get key officers in training - we get more attention and much easier environment for the training process to take place smoothly.

6- I would recommend to have a flexible curriculum for training , that range between several related topics prioritized differently to suit  diverse needs , you switch between them according to each location, it is sometimes helpful to be sensitive to some topics when you conducting training  in some countries.

7- It is not advisable, for human rights training, to target political rights (for instance) or political freedom in a country that have totalitarian systems, as in case you manage to organize a program with such an agenda (in most cases you can't), you probably will have marginalized trainees of no practical significance attending it, which makes training waste time and efforts.

8- When I remember that any training program only hosts some 20 or 30 of, or more rarely over 40 trainees, I do realize that there are other tens of thousands of officers who didn't have chance to attend, that means practically that the impact can be very slow and tottering, here the programs that target high commanding level are more productive as they are authority within the setting of LEO agents, meaning that they have the impact needed to influence their subordinates.

Ibrahim Elghazawi,PhD Humphrey Fellow School of law University of Minnesota;

Success: Police and migrant community exchange training program


I wanted to come back to one of your points regarding assessing human rights training. You said,

"When I remember that any training program only hosts some 20 or 30 of,
or more rarely over 40 trainees, I do realize that there are other tens
of thousands of officers who didn't have chance to attend, that means
practically that the impact can be very slow and tottering, here the
programs that target high commanding level are more productive as they
are authority within the setting of LEO agents, meaning that they have
the impact needed to influence their subordinates.

I want to share a program that has been operating in Austria that specifically offers their training to higher level officer for the very purpose of influencing their subordinates.

The International Centre for Cultures and Languages (ICCL) in Vienna adapted the "TANDEM©" program– originally created for language learning– to human rights education with police and migrant populations in a unique and profound way called "intercultural-TANDEM©." You can read more about this innovative training program in a NewTactics tactical notebook - TANDEM®: A process for cross-cultural \exchange between police and migrats

The program was designed by the ICCL in Vienna in response to several
violent interactions between the police and migrants in Austria. The result has been "Tandem© Learning", a cultural contact program that improves intercultural understanding. The intercultural-Tandem© program involves a series of interactions between 20 to 25 high level police officers and an equal number of migrants from other countries. The interactions occur mainly in structured group settings and in one-on-one Tandem© pair relationships. Over 150 high level police officers and about the same number of migrants have participated in this life changing intercultural experience.

The Tandem© program currently operates as part of a larger police-training course. Officers must apply for participation in the program, which consists of seven four-hour training sessions augmented by several informal activities involving the tandem pairs.

Although the program benefits from its affiliation with the police training course, it is possible that this model could also be implemented and succeed independently. I'd be interested to hear what others think of this kind of police training program. 

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Re: TANDEM program


I knew about the "TANDEM" program and appreciate the efforts invested in it to bring that kind of mutual understanding between LEOs and individuals, but this was targeting only immigrant community in a single country , what about other sectors of the community? I want to say that any effort is highly needed to bring about a tangible change in attitudes and trends of LEOs in many countries.

From the other hand I look at any project, no matter how tiny it is, as a move ahead in the long way of the nobel struggle to protect human rights worldwide. and I wish if such program-"TANDEM" program- can be generalized in other European countries concerning immigrants and asylum seekers, as I know that these groups are facing a lot of difficulties specially from police in these countries.


Please comment on draft proposal

Because police officers are trained and equipped to use weapons, they are subject to a culture which glorifies violence. In fact, while it may be expedient, violence is expensive and relatively ineffective in the long term. The proposed program exalts officers who use non-violent methods to de-escalate and defuse tense situations without threat or force. Our goal is to build a police culture that realistically views violence as a last ditch alternative which can be prevented by skilled officers, and to enable officers to learn the skills of non-violence.

We don't come in as outside experts, telling police officers how to do their job. Every experienced officer has used non-violent techniques. We encourage them to "learn by teaching," describing their experiences in a video interview. We then edit and distribute those videos, elevating successful uses of non-violent strategies and techniques. Over time, we continue to check back with reinforcements, interwoven with interviews from other police forces.

Training includes four stages:

  1. Introduction of concepts and distribution of pamphlet;
  2. Video recorded individual interviews;
  3. Distribution of departmental DVD;
  4. Distribution of “best of” DVDs.


Where can these resources be found?


Thank you for sharing this very interesting and innovative way of having police officers share their experiences and non-violent techniques.

Where can these videos be found? Do you have any curriculum regarding how police officers have used these videos within the context of training up and coming police officers or those already in the field?

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager


I'm proposing to make the videos, Nancy, in a yet-to-be-approved program of continuing police education starting in Corvallis, Oregon. I'm eager to hear suggestions for how we might improve or promote the proposal.

Verbal Judo Training of NYPD


I had heard good things about the 'Verbal Judo' training of NYPD officers. Please check if they can be of some relevance ?



Verbal Judo: training police officers on nonviolent tactics

Thanks for sharing this, Nina!  I had never heard of Verbal Judo before you mentioned this.  After some research, I found that there is a Verbal Judo Institute and also found a YouTube video of a police officer's testimony of the effectiveness of 'Verbal Judo.'  I would like to hear from others who have undergone or led similar trainings. Thanks!

Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

Clarification and Story of Video Training Success


Thank you for the clarification. I'm so sorry I misread your post and intention.

The idea of providing videos of police officers themselves sharing their experiences and skills in non-violent methods of reponse is a good one. It has been used very successfully in a training model that I am aware of and that has been written about in one of our New Tactics tactical notebooks.

 Police Training: Opening the door for professional and community-oriented policing

This tactical notebook shares how Forum-Asia (FA)–as a regional NGO, and Arie Bloed, as a foreign consultant with expertise in the design and development of a unique computer-based police training program–engaged and enlisted the support of top leadership of the Royal Thai Police (RTP) to implement this computerized training program in Thailand.

The training modules feature ’generic’ Constituional and Legal Policy Institute (COLPI)
training modules originally developed for use in former socialist
countries. They have been highly applicable to the further
professionalization of police in many other countries. The training
features a wide variety of video scenarios where police are provided
with options for response and an opportunity to discuss and think through the consequences of those action choices.

The computer-based police training program provides an excellent tool to help police more effectively address their own immediate day-to-day policing challenges, introduces the ideas of community policing, more accountability and transparency while also serving to build mutual trust, acknowledgement and support.

I hope this provides you with some ideas of how to possibly "pitch" your own proposal for creating your videos.

I hope others will respond with their ideas.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Draft Questions

Dear Officer ______________,

We are videotaping interviews with police officers as part of a continuing education project. You have been scheduled at __________________ on ______________________. Your participation in this project is completely voluntary. Your experience will help to teach other officers the reality of your profession. Thank you.

During the interview we encourage you to tell us about how you or someone you observerved was able to de-escalate a tense situation without violence or threat. We want you to feel free to relax and express yourself completely. If it will help, you are welcome to bring notes you write as reminders. The following questions may help you to remember particular incidents.

  1. Perpetrators of violence have often been victims. Having frequently experienced violent response, they can be suprized by an act of kindness, a service, or an expression of praise or gratitude. Are there examples you have seen?
  2. Emotional escalation can lead to violence. Perpetrators may be in a very emotional state due to circumstances which may include mental illness or the use of drugs. Please tell us how being calm and centered has eased emotional escalation.
  3. As humans, we get swept up emotionally. Have you ever needed to explain your emotions in nonthreatening terms? Have you explored the needs behind your own and others emotional reactions?
  4. People want to know they are heard and understood. Have you used reflexive listening and empathy to de-escalate a potentially violent situation? Has reframing a message helped to focus a potential perpetrator toward positive action?
  5. Cultural and language differences may get in the way of communication. Please talk about times you have circumvented these barriers to establish common ground with those who are different.
  6. Sometimes taking a situation too seriously can be dangerous. Can you remember a time when humor or pleasant distraction helped to refocus a potentially threatening situation?
  7. People often view police officers as symbols of authority, against which they may have legitimate grievances. Have you succeeded in working with angry victims to find appropriate routes to justice?
  8. Most people react defensively when they feel intimidated. Has showing vulnerability, weakness, or self sacrifice helped to prevent defensive reactions?
  9. How do you let people know you are not their enemy?

You may think of other stories that are not captured by the questions above. Please feel free to share how a situation was improved without violence or threat. Your responses will be edited for brevity and clarity and you will receive a DVD of your interview mixed with others from your department. In the future, we plan to do compilations of the best of these interviews, which we will share with you. Please sign the attached release form and bring it with you to the interview. Thank you.

Excellent questions to explore in "soft skills" trainings


Thank you for sharing these questions. It seems to me these would make great questions to explore within the context of what Nina has shared in her post regarding "soft skills" training courses. These questions related specifically to behavioural skills that would make it possible for a law enforcement officer to transform a potentially volitile and dangerous situation into a situation where the underlying problem can be effectively resolved.

I'm interested to hear if these kinds of questions and scenarios are part of the traniing curriculum within law enforcement trainings.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Soft Skill Training: Content and Pedagogy

In view of the fact that policing is increasingly becoming community centric, the incorporation of 'soft skills' becomes even more important for inculcating right values, relevant expertise and a positive attitude. Soft skills include concepts like communication, leadership, problem solving, motivation, team bulding and negotiation that have direct bearing on the behavior and attitude of police persons. These skills sensitize the police to the changing social realities and help in law enforcement .

As far as the methodology and pedagogy of these trainings is concerned they  include: (1) high degree of interaction between the learners and faculty, (2) multiple methods of service delivery, (3) assessment to enhance competency and self confidence and (4) employment of technology that mirrors their actual work environment.

In Rajasthan three days module of 'soft skill' training has been prepared for the frontline police i.e the staff of all ranks posted in police stations. It is highly interactive and customised to their work and living environment to facilitate a better understanding appreciation of complex situations in which they work. These training courses are being imparted by civilian trainers who are professionals. But these trainers also undergo an orientation course to understand the police working to answer the complex questions and dilemmas of policing.  It is mandatory for the police staff to attend the refresher course six months after the completion of the main traing course on soft skills. The refresher course is of two days. The objective of the refresher course is to test the retention of the concepts taught in the main course. The feedback has been excellent so far.

Nina Singh, (India), Inspector General of Police, Rajasthan, Indian Police Service (IPS)

Stories of success

Evgeni Genchev

As a result of our work with the police on human rights, there were some new regulations about detainment by the police. There is an obligatory set of documents to fill in. Time of beggining of police detention is to be the moment of the detention and not the moment the person is brought to the police station. Also the detaned person wish or refusal for lawyer, medical care and phone call is to be documented. Established were permanent comissions for human rights in the police on central and regional levels. Human rights issues were included in the regular continuing edication of the policemen.

All this hasn't erradicated police violations of human rights, but is a clear signal for the direction for the police development.

Role and Impact of Media

One of the impacts of human rights training is to limit human rights violations , in Egypt now there are rigorous public prosecution inspection targeting police detentions, and according to the rules of criminal procedural law a person must not detained more than 24 hours without warrant, although this rule had been ignored for long, fortunately it is now respected seriously, this is an improvement that occurred in recent years, but it can't be only for human rights training, but the media is active in disclosing any violation than ever, which poses great pressure over law enforcement agency to be very strict with violators ( several officers are in prison now for commiting crimes concerning torture specifically) , so the tools for improvement can be several factors and not only one, and it is  a fact that the law by itself is not enough to safeguard human rights, but we need also good law enforcement agency, literate community that know how to frame LE attitudes.

Showing police candidates videos of officers on trial for human

Showing police candidates videos of officers on trial for human rights violations in order to dissuade them from misconduct
Dr. Biçak compiled footage of the prosecutions of police officers charged with violating human rights into a 90-minute video. Candidates at the police academy are shown the tape, in conjunction with a human rights course, to combat misconceptions about human rights, remind them that police officers can and will be prosecuted for misconduct, encourage empathy for the accused and remind them of the need to protect their human rights. Dr. Biçak also gives the recruits a questionnaire at the beginning and end of their training to track changes in their attitudes toward human rights. While most begin the course believing that human rights are an impediment to police work and that the concept did not encompass the protection of their own rights, the questionnaire showed that most developed a more open mind by the end of their training. This tactic has been implemented during pre-service, second-level training in the Faculty of Security Sciences for those who will become high-ranking policemen.

Professor Dr. Vahit Biçak,

definition of torture and ill treatment

I would like to draw participants attention to the definiton of torture and ill treatment and the difference between the two concepts. The fundamental question is whether the definition of such terms in domestic laws comply with the definiton of international conventions and ınternational courts judgements? Let us focus on a little bit the basic elements of the torture and ill treatment and degrading treatment in different legal systems.  

Professor Dr. Vahit Biçak

Definition of torture

Being based in Geneva we are ideally placed to follow the various sessions of the UN treaty bodies and only today the UN Committee against Torture's November three-week-long examination of States Parties came to a close. Last week I sat in on the sessions relating to Moldova, during which the Rapporteur on Moldova publicly commended the country on its definition of torture in its criminal code due to it being in line with Article 1 of the UN Convention. Let me tell you that this is a rare occurence! Usually, the UN Committee has some comment to make regarding the definition of torture in national legislation. In short, States Parties frequently fail to incorporate all the elements of Article 1 in their national legislation.     






Matthew Pringle

Definition of torture

Jeanne Sarson, Canada


Is it possible for you to share this definition that you refer to? If so, I would appreciate reading it.

It seems to me that definition is most important in education as it defines the issue as it relates to human rights  and sets boundaries on what actions are appropriate or not and the consequences if these boundaries are violated.  


Jeanne Sarson


 Hello Jeanne, 

Please find below the definition of torture as found in Article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture. During the UNCAT sessions the UN Committee insists as a rule that the domestic definition of torture of States Parties reflects all the elements of this article. Regrettably, not many states do.

By the way, Jeanne, I do not know if you are familiar with the APT's website, but we have various publications and other materials on the UNCAT plus other instruments. Earlier this year we lauched a database which compiles domestic legislation on torture. Please go to for more information. Our Jurisprudence Guide may also be of interest to you. Please have a look and I will send you a copy if it looks interesting.

Best wishes from Geneva,


Article 1

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.



Jeanne Sarson, Canada

Thank you Matti, for your information.

I am aware of the CAT definition. I was thinking that there must have been some specific additional comment in relation to Moldova as in how the CAT definition of torture was being applied to torture that occured in the domestic sphere perpetrated by non-state actors for example. I spoke of my concerns re non-state actor torture in the domestic sphere lower down in this discourse before I realized the discourse had a focus in educating police not to engage in torture of those they are to protect. Nancy got me on track.

I had thought that maybe the statement re Moldova and torture definition addressed what happens when spillover torture occurs. That is, when a police person engages in torturing as 'work' but then the torturing spills over into the torture of a spouse or child(ren) in the domestic sphere. How is this treated - is it state or non-state torture? How would the torturer be held accountable? And would the victim's human right "not to be subjected to torture" be upheld recognizing that they endured torture? I was thinking that there might have been a statement that reflected protecting women from torture in the domestic sphere as highlighted in the 2008 Report of the Special Rapporteur against Torture in the Moldova statement. 

Matthew, I looked at the link re compiles of domestic legislation on torture that you provided and it is most important for gaining easy access to global positioning and is something that I have been seeking as a research tool. Thank you.



UNCAT - regarding violence committed in the home

Dear Jeanne,

Thanks very much for the clarification. This issue did come up during the session on Moldova - as it usually does nowadays - but I will need to check my notes when I am back in the office tomorrow. More generally, having followed UNCAT sessions over the past decade or so it is encouraging that the issue of violence committed in the home has become a much more prominent issue during the UNCAT sessions than in the past and that the UN Committee now makes various recommendations in relation to the issue, including on education and training for police officers. If I am not mistaken, the Concluding Observations of the most recent session of the UN Committee should be available now and if I have time tomorrow I will trawl through them to see what recommendations were made in the above regard.      


More on Moldova

Dear Jeanne, On the issue of domestic violence in Moldova and the reaction of the UNCAT, please find enclosed the relevant articles of the Concluding Observations of the Committee. You will see that the Committee made various recommendations in this regard, including on training of public officials. Matthew


Domestic violence23. While noting various measures taken by the State party, including the decision of 25 September 2009 by a court in Anenii Noi to issue a protection order in favour of the victim in a case involving domestic violence, the Committee remains concerned about the persistence of violence against women and children, including domestic violence, the rarity of intervention measures by the judiciary, the limited number and capacity of shelters for victims of domestic violence, and at reports that domestic violence is deemed to warrant the intervention of the police only in cases where it has resulted in serious injury. (arts. 2, 13 and 16) The State party should enforce the Law on Preventing and Combating Domestic Violence and provide support for victims through the establishment of additional shelters, the provision of free counselling services and such other measures as may be necessary for the protection of victims. The Committee urges the State party to address impunity in this area, to take appropriate preventive measures and to provide training on the handling of domestic violence to all professionals involved in such cases, including police officers, prosecutors, judges and social workers, with emphasis on the gender aspects of domestic violence. The State party should also provide information, in its next report, on the incidence of domestic violence, on the measures taken to address it, including the use of restraining orders, and on the impact, if any, of such measures. Here is the link to the document:


definition of torture and ill treatment

I would like to draw participants attention to the definiton of torture and ill treatment and the difference between the two concepts. The fundamental question is whether the definition of such terms in domestic laws comply with the definiton of international conventions and ınternational courts judgements? Let us focus on a little bit the basic elements of the torture and ill treatment and degrading treatment in different legal systems.  

Professor Dr. Vahit Biçak

Torture and ill treatment are purposeful behavours

Torture and ill treatment are purposeful behavours of law enforcement officials (police or jendermeria). To fight effectively with torture and ill treatments, civil society or supervising body or training staff should be able to idetfiy the goals of using torture and ill treatment. Different measures may be developed for each different aimed illegalities.

Any adapted means to fight the torture and ill treatment should be questiond whether the means chosen are suitible.  One should be careful that means chosen were not ill suited to achieve the desired end, prevention of torture and ill treatment.



Professor Dr. Vahit Biçak

identifying systemic issues

It is also possible that ill-treatment is not used for a specific purppose but arises from difficiencies in the system of detention and the lack of safeguards for detainees - identifying systemic causes and risks of ill-treatment in places of detnetion is therefore an essential part of preventive work. 

Jem Stevens
Asia-Pacific Programme Officer
Association for the Prevention of Torture

Concerns and accountability

Jeanne Sarson, Canada

Although I find all input of interest I remain troubled therefore these are my general responses with suggested remedies:

1. An assumption: It appears to me that there is a collective assumption in all the discussion re ill-treatment and torture that assumes to relate only to State inflicted torture; however, the title of this dialogue does not state this. My suggested solution: If my assumption is correct I ask that a discourse on torture or ill-treatment that leads to torture state clearly whether the discourse is related to only State-inflicted torture and ill-treatment in the public sphere, whether the discourse relates to torture that is inflicted by non-state actors in the domestic/private sphere or whether the discourse relates to torture that is committed in both the public and private spheres. 

2.       Why am I asking for this clarity? I have worked, since 1993, with women who report surviving torture, tortured by a spouse, and/or tortured when they were girls, and sometimes childhood torture continued into early adulthood or devolved into abuse. There is a difference between the acts of abuse and the acts of torture, we all know this or else human rights instruments would not have had to differentiate torture as a distinct and specific human rights violation. Everyone is entitled to human rights, which are universal, indivisible and interdependent, meaning each person, woman, man, girl and boy have inherent dignity and worth; when referencing the issues of torture this means that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Article 5, Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Whenever the reality of torture arises, as in this discussion, the socio-cultural conditioning appears to be that torture is only a public sphere State inflicted act whereas torture that happens in the home or in the private/domestic sphere is invisibilized. My suggested solution: That consideration always be given to naming whether the torture being referred to is torture that is inflicted in the public or private sphere or both as suggested in point one, this would at least provide a statement of dignity and worth to those who have suffered torture in the domestic sphere.

 3.      Invisibilization, discrimination and the patriarchal divide: As to the issue of entitlement to human rights, it is my experience that the entitlement of women and girls who tell of surviving torture victimization inflicted in the private sphere is constantly denied and invisibilized and the invisibilization is entrenched as a global and national socially-conditioned form of gender-based discrimination as well as a devaluation of torture that occurs in the private or domestic sphere. The patriarchal divide is a term I use to illustrate this discriminatory reality. Reality suggests that if a person is tortured by State representatives then there has developed a global response about the violation of the tortured person’s human rights, for instance the "Hague Law" and "Geneva Law", however, on the domestic sphere side of the patriarchal divide if a woman or girl discloses torture where is the equal outcry of their human rights not to be subjected to torture?           Women we support nationally and internationally, from New Zealand to Australia, to Western Europe, the UK, the US and Canada who repetitively speak of having endured electric shocking, being caged, burnt, cut, brutally beaten, hung, smeared with bodily fluids, endured human-animal cruelty with pets killed, burnt, drowned, and/or bestiality, rapes of all forms – individual and family/group rapes, forced to self-harm, had reproductive tortures of forced impregnations and abortions, nutritional, temperature, and sleep deprivations, and the list goes on, the response is most commonly civil society and global silence, a "don't tell me this" of not wanting to know, or a bias perspective that we must be speaking of African communities. In Canada, my nationality, Canadian women are faced with torture victimization being degraded into a simple assault or other forms of criminal assaults as there is no law that specifically identifies torture as a specific criminal offence in the domestic sphere whereas State inflicted torture is specifically criminalized. This is true for other countries also such as Australia the last time I reviewed their criminal code.  To be respectful to both genders, I do not know about adult men or men as boys because I have not been contacted by many men regarding being subjected to domestic torture, but women who were tortured in childhood do speak of the torture of their male siblings and generally speak of how boys were ‘conditioned’ – tortured – into the role of perpetrator.My suggested solution: Countries need to specifically criminalize all forms of torture inflicted whether in the public or domestic spheres; however, I realize this is not the topic of discussion. My suggestion is that as persons who promote human rights the very least that can be done today is to provide acknowledgement to those who suffer torture in the domestic sphere, acknowledgement of its existence as suggested in my first point.

 4.  Training of police officials. From my perspective, if the human rights of all persons not to be subjected to torture are to be upheld then training would require identifying whether the training is focussed on torture in the public or domestic sphere. It may also need to be specific to the country, torturers’ patterns of torture and the intentionality and purpose of the torturing; this applies to domestic torturers also. There are commonalities and differences, at least from what I presently know, in the actions of State versus non-state domestic torturers. For example, many of the women my colleague and I work with, those who suffered pedophilic torture perpetrated by like-minded kin and non-kin, have suicidal risks that seem not to be present with State torture victimization – that is, they report being counselled to commit suicide versus tell what happened to them, when they try to tell they are at high risk for psychological suicidal triggering. Also they are often forced to Self-cut for the sadistic purpose/pleasures of the torturers which is not something I have yet come across re State torturers although torturers from both spheres express great pleasures in what they do which causes much psychological humiliation for the tortured person. And the pleasures torturers derive are seldom spoken of in State inflicted torture.  My suggested solution: If all persons have a human right not to be subjected to torture than all who work in this arena need to identify the arena to which they refer, whether they speak of education/training for public-State versus domestic-non-state inflicted torture.

5.      Nepal example. As to the mediation of “domestic violence” in Nepal, with full respect for such efforts I have grave concerns that severe human rights violations such as torture could occur and be invisibilized as domestic issues. This is the dominant history of the invisibilization of the severe forms of violence that do occur in the private/domestic sphere.  


Respectfully submitted.

Jeanne Sarson 


Who are the Torturers?

Have you done much examination of the histories of the perpetrators of domestic torture, Jeanne? I know of one case where a US soldier returned from Laos, where he was decorated for torturing people, and eventually set up a torture chamber in his basement for his wife and son. When I learned of it, all three were recieving psychological treatment, the father in prison. Is it common for torurers to cross the line between state and domestic torture?

the term torture has a technical meaning.

Dear Jeanne,

You raised important issues. I would like to express my opinion on one of the issues you raised. As far as I am concerned, torture is a technical term for brutality of state agents such as the law enforcement officers (police and gendermeria), prison guards, staff of mental hospitals or staff of child care instutions etc. One of the main element of torture is to use of state power to give pain to victims.  If individuals act each other  in a brutal way, that is an bodily assault, injury or intentianla killling. Of course, the criminal justice sytsem should be able to protect the individuals against such kind of offences. Penal Codes should have provision punishing such offenders. If the state organs fail to implement these law, state agents may be responsible for breach of positive responsibility to protect citizens from torture. Using the word of tortore in every case might  reduce the impact of the term in the long term. 

Professor Dr. Vahit Biçak

I personally would not take

I personally would not take a position on whether torture is something that must be confined to state agents. However, it does seem to me that when we're talking about torture that violates human rights, then we be talking about state-sponsored, state-supported, or, at a minimum, state-tolerated torture. By referencing international covenants and treaties or local state constitutions as the source of these rights, we must recall that we are referring to rights typically as against government authorities. Such instruments typically do not protect people from private action, but rather, from state action. Moreover, when state parties to these agreements enter into them, they do so on behalf of the government; they do not necessarily purport to bind all of the citizens. Thus, when a sexual sadist kidnaps and tortures a victim, such conduct would typically not run afoul of a state or national constitution or an international treaty. On the one hand, civil and human rights as we generally use those terms would not be implicated. On the other hand, it is probably of little comfort to the victims that the torture is private and not public.


Phillip Lyons, (USA), Executive Director, Texas Regional Center for Policing Innovation, (TRCPI) and Faculty Professor, Sam Houston State University, College of Criminal Justice

Question about the assumption and parameters of dialogue topic


Thank you for raising these points. I wanted to specifically address your initial assumption and clarify your question about the parameters of the dialogue topic. 

This particular dialogue was selected to focus specifically on law enforcement and the training methods, tools, and mechanisms being used to help prevent, intervene in and address incidences of ill-treatment and torture by law enforcement personnel upon individuals in the communities in which they are tasked to serve and protect.  

I think we did have the general assumption that the ill-treatment and torture is taking place in the course of law enforcement duties. Both you and Vernon's comment have raised a particularly interesting point to examine, regarding the danger and potential of law enforcement (and soldiers from Vernon's comment) to bring these behaviors of ill-treatment and torture into their own homes and against their family members.

I hope this comment helps to clarify the reasoning behind the particular themes that were selected and the general discourse that has been taking place.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Questions about the assumptions and parameters of dialogue topic

Jeanne Sarson, Canada

Hello Nancy,

Thanks for your clarification. I obviously missed the point! Hopefully I am getting it now, which is that the issue at hand is how to prevent, train the police not to violate or get involved in the perpetration of ill-treatment or torture of the population they serve. This is important. I can say that some women we support do speak of police being directly involved in their torture victimization. Their testimonials are generally historical but not always.

My apologies to all for my misunderstanding or in the introduced of an element that you were not intending for discussion.


Jeanne Sarson



Topic locked