Police Reforms: International


CHRI's international programme works across East Africa, West Africa, the Pacific, South Asia and the Caribbean.

CHRI has worked on policing issues in East Africa since 2001. Reform of East African police systems is critical and long overdue. In each of the countries of the region - Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda - policing is often characterised by brutality, torture, partiality, illegal arrest and detention, extra-judicial executions, corruption and abuse of due process. Illegitimate political interference into police operations also has a direct impact on the community's experience of the police. Meanwhile, police officers and organisations are unsupported, under-resourced and work in extremely challenging and complex circumstances.

CHRI's policing work in West Africa is coordinated by its office in Accra, Ghana, which has been running a dedicated police accountability programme for the last three years. Years of colonial style policing before independence left a legacy of regime policing in Ghana; violent, heavy handed and politicised policing that was in place to protect the ruling regime's interests, rather than to serve the Ghanaian community. Today's police service is a direct descendant of the colonial police service, and continues to exhibit many of the same traits. Despite a series of government sponsored commissions and committees - that began in 1951 and have continued to sit since - the police have not been pulled into line with the modern democracy that Ghana is today; at different times reform has been undermined by political turmoil or discarded because of a lack of political will for change.

Nine island countries make up the Commonwealth Pacific - Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Australia and New Zealand are also in the Pacific region. Across the region, issues around policing and police reform are key governance priorities, as well as being human rights concerns. Policing in this region faces the challenges of contending with large geographical distances within countries often spread over many islands, heterogeneous societies, violent crime, and sporadic political crises.

Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are Commonwealth South Asia. Across the region, issues around policing and police reform are key human rights concerns, as well as governance priorities. Policing in the region contends with heterogeneous societies, violent crime, protracted conflict, poverty, and political unrest. The colonial experience has shaped policing; illegitimate political interference in policing is endemic across the region and has created subservient, partisan, and unaccountable policing in South Asia. All of the countries of Commonwealth South Asia have initiated efforts toward police reform, but it is very much a case of two steps forward, and another step back, as good laws are repealed, or important accountability mechanisms diluted or rendered ineffective in implementation. Political resistance continues to strangle policing.

To read about a Commonwealth Expert Group on Policing click here.