Expert Group on Policing
has been considerable - and increasing - discussion about the
state of policing in the Commonwealth, and the urgent need for
reform. A tangible way to take forward this need is the establishment
of a Commonwealth Expert Group on Policing.
discussions at the 2005 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
(CHOGM), in December 2005, CHRI wrote to the Commonwealth Secretary
General, looking to his leadership to establish an Expert Group.
is an Expert Group on Policing crucial?
very simple terms, democratic governance requires democratic policing.
The Commonwealth has committed itself to pursuing democratic governance.
Policing and safety issues pose some of the most significant governance
challenges in the Commonwealth. Good policing is crucial to democracy,
development and the practical realisation of human rights. Poor
policing can mean serious human rights violations become a way
of life for communities and prevents members of the community
from engaging in their own governance.
Expert Group is a crucial step forward to help support good governance
in Commonwealth countries and assist with the transformation of
societies to achieve political, economic and human development.
a Commonwealth Expert Group on Policing?
Commonwealth's shared colonial history has left its countries
with a mutual legacy of colonial-style policing. This shared history
means that each Commonwealth member state faces many of the same
policing issues. A coordinated, pan-Commonwealth approach is the
most efficient and effective way to assist member states to improve
the quality of their policing, and ensure effective democracy
and development. The Expert Group will be able to contribute to
better policing where individual, piecemeal efforts have not succeeded.
This approach also allows the existing Commonwealth networks to
operate to help implement recommendations and ensure effective
Expert Groups have an excellent record of pulling together skilled
authorities from around the Commonwealth and making recommendations
that have influenced members of the Commonwealth and the wider
Commonwealth boasts some of the best policing practices in the
world. The Expert Group would be an opportunity to showcase these
practices and to positively impact the lives of those in Commonwealth
communities. An Expert Group will also establish the Commonwealth
Secretariat as an international leader on policing issues, building
on its existing police human rights training work.
does the mandate to establish the group come from?
mentions in declarations and communiqués call for the Commonwealth
to promote human rights and ensure good governance standards.
Access to justice and police accountability are central to realising
2003, the Commonwealth Expert Group on Development and Democracy
stated that Commonwealth governments should commit themselves
to ensuring “a police force that responds to the law for
its operations and the government for its administration”
and that this should be “fully held to account”. In
2002, Commonwealth Law Ministers also mandated the Commonwealth
Secretariat to assist in training for police officers in order
to entrench greater respect for human rights.
member states are extremely supportive of the creation of an Expert
Group. Commonwealth based civil society and police organisations
have also been vocal in their calls for an Expert Group to look
at policing. Member states, civil society and police organisations
are all looking to leadership from the Secretariat to set up an
2005 Commonwealth People’s Forum (CPF) and the 2005 Commonwealth
Human Rights Forum (CHRF) both called on the Commonwealth to “establish
a Commonwealth Expert Group on policing to develop guidelines
on training, accountability mechanisms, legal regimes and mutual
professional support to ensure democratic policing.” Another
civil society event, held immediately prior to the 2005 Commonwealth
Law Ministers Meeting called on the Commonwealth to “develop
Commonwealth Principles on Policing based on democratic principles
and international standards”, one of the key tasks of such
an Expert Group.
2007 report to CHOGM, which considers the impact of anti-terrorism
legislation on policing, throws further weight behind the need
for an Expert Group on Policing, and calls on the Heads of Government
to “mandate the Commonwealth Secretariat to establish a
police expert group to guide and assist police practices and operations,
including counter-terrorism policing throughout the Commonwealth”.
would be the mandate of the group?
Expert Group should be mandated to:
Examine policing structures in Commonwealth member states, with
a particular emphasis on mechanisms for accountability;
Develop Commonwealth Principles on Policing based on democratic
principles and international standards;
Assess legislative and structural alternatives to promote transparency
in policing and democratic policing in member states;
human rights education and general training programmes of police
in member states; and
Develop guidelines on training, accountability mechanisms, legislative
regimes and recommendations on ensuring mutual professional
support to ensure democratic policing.
would make up the group?
Expert Group should be made up of around six pre-eminent Commonwealth
experts on policing. It should be diverse include academics, civil
society, and experts with policing experience. It should reflect
the diversity of the Commonwealth, and include members from the
Pacific, Caribbean, Africa and Asia.
would the Expert Group complement and extend the work of the Commonwealth
Secretariat on policing?
Commonwealth Secretariat, through its Human Rights Unit, is already
engaged with policing issues within a human rights framework.
Following on from the Commonwealth Law Minister’s mandate
to the Commonwealth Secretariat to assist in police training,
the Human Rights Unit developed a training manual for police in
Western Africa that was then further developed into a human rights
training manual for all Commonwealth police. An Expert Group on
Policing would help consolidate this work and extend the reach
and impact of the Unit’s work far beyond training.
to download a pdf version of this brief. Click here
to download a sample letter of support for the creation of an
Expert Group to send to the Commonwealth Secretary General (his
email address is firstname.lastname@example.org).