The Centre for Human Rights (CHR), University of Pretoria (UP), in partnership with the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF) and Global Law Enforcement and Public Health Association (GLEPHA) held another advanced human rights course on “Policing and Vulnerability in Africa” from the 5th – 9th September 2022. The course was held virtually with over sixty (60) participants drawn from law enforcement agencies, government parastatals, students, academic institutions, legal practitioners, civil societies, human rights advocates, non-profit organizations, and other institutions of learning across countries in Africa and globally.

 The first day of the course, 5th September 2022, began with welcome remarks, the introduction of participants and presenters, course objectives by Prof. Frans Viljoen (Director: Center for Human Rights, University of Pretoria). Ms Louise Edwards (Research and Programmes Director, APCOF) reintroduced the aims and objectives of APCOF, welcomed participants to this year’s short course. Dr Thomas Probert (Freedom from Violence Programme, CHR, UP) also welcomed participants and thanked CHR for its continual advancement of human rights discourse through its Advanced Human Rights Courses (AHRC) project. Jason Kew (Chief Inspector (Rtd), Violence Reduction Unit, Drugs, Exploitation & Harm Reduction Lead, Thames Valley Police; Co-convener of GLEPHA's law enforcement and harm reduction Special Interest Group) also appreciated CHR and other partners for continuing partnership.

The course took off with the first presentation of the day by Louise Edwards (Research and Programmes Director, APCOF) on the topic ‘Human Rights, Policing and Vulnerability in Africa.’ The highlights of this topic were key human rights principles applicable to policing, the relationship between police oversight and human rights, vulnerable persons in the context of human rights and policing, and the practical application of theory to policing. The second presentation for the day was on the topic ‘A Harm-reduction Approach to Policing and Vulnerability’ by Mr Jason Kew. He stated that,

“The law enforcement officials need to first identify reasons why people take drugs which will assist them to handle drug abuse cases differently”.  He further reiterated that the public and the police need each other for an effective policing system and a better society”. Jason Kew

Dr. Mutuma Ruteree (Director, Centre for Human Rights & Policy Studies, Former UN Special Rapporteur on Racism, and xenophobia) started off the second day with the topic, ‘Discrimination and Policing.’ He focused his discussions on the dangers of profiling which in turn increases offences and strains police/community relations. He stated that ethnic/racial profiling needs to be addressed and police must be held to account for human rights violations. Abdirahman Maalim Gossar (Project Officer, APCOF) followed with a topic on ‘Decriminalization of Poverty and Status: A Strategy in Harm Reduction.’ In his presentation he criticized the broad and vague language use often used in many of the laws in the African context and expected to be enforced by the police. Thus, they do not convey the message intended and often difficult to apply by the police who normally do not have any high-level formal training. Overall, he observed that the existing laws in Africa are rather punitive than preventive. As a result, there is the need for an alternative framework for criminalization and policing measures. The last topic for the day on ‘Diversion and Policing’ by Brendon Cox (LEAD National Support Bureau, Director of Policing Former Police Chief, Albany, New York) addressed the need for a more proactive, non-judgmental approach to policing which will help in ensuring justice is achieved in the end.

Day three began with a presentation by Maria Goretti Loglo (International Drug Policy Consortium) on ‘Policing Drug Use.’ She pointed out the need to address issues of poverty, unemployment, lack of development and to create a balanced approach on drug security. She stated that,

“Decriminalization when done right promotes right to health, freedom, reduces violence and fosters access to systems of care and support.” Maria Goretti-Loglo

The second presentation of the day was by Dr. Ayodele Sogunro (Project Manager, SOGIESC Unit, CHR, UP) on the topic ‘Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Policing.’ He started by reminding participants that,

“Human rights are not earned as they belong to every individual.” However, certain individuals experience exclusivity and are more vulnerable due to their sexual and social orientation and as a result face sterner societal discrimination and punishment.”Ayo Sogunro.

The final topic for the day on ‘Policing and Migration’ was presented by Sharon Ekambaram (Manager, Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme, Lawyers for Human Rights). During her session she addressed the objectives of the short course on police and vulnerability in Africa, a ponder on who in actual fact the police systems were built to serve, defend, and protect. This included South African Police Services, their standard operating procedures and other African policing legal frameworks.  

Dr. Tarryn Bannister (Project Officer, APCOF) began day four with a discussion on the topic ‘Effective Responses to Gender Based Violence.’ She highlighted the devastating effects of gender-based violence on victims and society, the complexity of GBV, the role of the police in managing GBV, the legal framework and its applicability and the lack of legal, political and administrative accountability. The 2nd lecture for the day on ‘Policing and Disability’ was presented by Dagnachew Wakene (Doctoral researcher, Freedom from violence programme, Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa, ICLA). The key points were on the status quo on disability-based violence, underlying causes, global and regional disability rights legal framework, barriers, challenges and recommendations for improvement. The last presentation for the day was on the topic ‘Police and the Use of Force: International Standards, National Legislation and Training’ by Prof. Stuart Maslen (Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria). He highlighted the importance of applying the principle of proportionality, necessity and legality in the use of force by law enforcement agencies. He emphasized the need for operational training for law enforcement agencies. His last words were,

“Law enforcement agents need to understand how their actions affect human rights.” Prof. Stuart Maslen

Day five of the course began with Prince Nare (Co-Director, Just Detention Intentional) discussing ‘Safeguarding Rights in Custodial Settings.’ These include inter alia: safety in detention centers (DC), Policies to address sexual abuse, additional pain in (DC), inmate orientation, staff training, response to victims, medical attention and counselling, steps to take in the aftermath, non-discriminatory response, a general overhaul of the current prison system and the incorporation of better rehabilitation and reparation methods.

The course discussions were rounded up by a facilitated session on ‘How to Centre Vulnerability in Police Reform.’ moderated by Dr Thomas Probert with Magda Reynolds (National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO) and Anneke Meerekotter (Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) as contributors. The course was a success, and we are thankful to our partners for their support and hard work.


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