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The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, in collaboration with the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF), and African Men for Sexual Health & Rights (AMSHER) hosted the annual advanced human rights short course on Police Oversight and Vulnerable Groups in Africa from 7 to11 September 2020.

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This year 54 participants attended the course and represented 13 African countries as well as Germany, India and Armenia. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this edition was presented in a hybrid format, with the majority of participants joining the course online while 15 participants attended the course physically which was held at the Future Africa Campus in Pretoria.

Participants that were in attendance included academics, senior police and military members, civil society organisations, government officials and human rights advocates working with the rights for vulnerable groups. In attendance was 11 senior members of the South African Police Services (SAPS) who attended the physical course at Future Africa.

Professor Frans Viljoen (Director, Centre for Human Rights) kick-started the first day of the course with a word of welcome and setting of the course scene. Mr Dennis Antwi (Manager, Advanced Human Rights Courses) Mr Sean Tait, (Director, APCOF), Mr Berry Nibogora (Head of Programmes, AMSHeR) and Dr Thomas Probert, (Manager, Freedom from Violence Unit, Centre for Human Rights) introduced the concepts, structure, objectives and class exercises for the course.

Ms Louise Edwards (Programme Manager, APCOF) presented on the global and regional standards on policing and human rights. She specifically discussed the principles of non-discrimination, the right to dignity and freedom from torture and ill-treatment, the right to life and the use of force, arrest and detention, investigations/accountability, treatment of victims and witnesses in the context of policing the vulnerable groups.

Mr Berry Nibogora presented on policing key populations and discussed critical issues such as: the scope of criminalisation and consequences on dignity, access to services, stigma and discrimination, protection despite criminalisation in the context of policing vulnerable groups. Mr Nibogora touched on issues of sexuality, the right to privacy and the balance between policing while upholding the rights of key and vulnerable groups through a public health approach.

Mr Pieter Cronje (Attorney and former Police Officer) presented on policing vulnerable goups and the intersection between theory and practice. He shared experiences on both the challenges and the successes of his policing career whilst advocating for human rights. The human rights and dignity of vulnerable groups are often violated as a result of ignorance or discrimination by service members and Mr Cronje emphasised the importance and dire need of human rights education within the police and the military.

Other presenters and topics inlcuded:

  • Dr Mutuma Ruteree
    Director, Centre for Human Rights & Policy Studies;
    Former UN Special Rapporteur on racism and xenophobia
    Policing and discrimination, a global perspective
  • Ms Louise Edwards
    Programme Manager, APCOF
    Detention-related issues
  • Mr Ayodele Sogunro
    Manager, SOGIESC Unit, Centre for Human Rights
    Human rights-based approaches to vulnerability: developments in protecting vulnerable groups
  • Ms Patience Mungwari Mpani
    Manager: Women’s Right Unit, Centre for Human Rights
    Effective and sensitive approaches to domestic and gender-based violence.
  • Ms Maria-Goretti Loglo
    Consultant: International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) who presented on Drug use, Recreation as a ground of criminalisation: the war against drugs versus possession of drugs for personal use and harm reduction.
  • Mr Dagnachew Wakene
    Doctoral student, Freedom from Violence programme, Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA)
    Disability and inclusive policing for persons with disability: what can be done better?
    What can be the particular threats faced against which the police should protect, or obstacles that need to be overcome in terms of access to justice?
  • Mr Sean Tait
    Director, APCOF
    The role for internal and external oversight mechanisms: an introduction to the theories of internal and external oversight.
  • Prof Stuart Maslen
    Honorary Professor, ICLA
    Standards on the use of force by the police and opportunities for accountability: what are the international standards concerning how the police can use force, including against potentially vulnerable populations? What are the implications for the policing of COVID-related restrictions? What role can technologies or policing culture play in accountability?
  • Mr Dumisani Gandhi
    Doctoral student, Freedom from Violence programme, ICLA
    The impact of body-worn cameras on the policing of vulnerable groups
  • Prof Christof Heyns
    Member, UN Human Rights Committee ; Director; ICLA
    Facilitating peaceful assemblies: facilitating the participation of key populations in assemblies (children, PWDs, women) and protecting assemblies (esp. LGBTI, Pride etc.)
  • Ms Beryl Orao
    Doctoral student, Freedom from Violence programme, ICLA
    Facilitating peaceful assemblies: facilitating the participation of key populations in assemblies (children, PWDs, women) and protecting assemblies (esp. LGBTI, Pride etc.)
  • Ms Anneke Meerkotter
    Litigation Director: South African Litigation Centre
    Claiming rights of vulnerable groups through litigation and legal aid in Southern Africa
    Designing, policing and living in safer communities-What do we mean by community safety? Introduction to the challenges of policing the urban periphery and city improvement districts and their discontents
  • Prof Karina Landman
    Department of Town and Regional Planning, UP
    Designing, policing and living in safer communities: what do we mean by community safety? Introduction to the challenges of policing the urban periphery and city improvement districts and their discontents
  • Dr Adrian Jjuuko
    Executive Director: Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF)
    The role for the judiciary and strategic litigation
    The role of the judiciary in providing remedies to victims of police violence: cases of sexual and gender minorities
    Judicial oversight of policing work before and during trials: training the champions.

Group exercises were conducted on Zoom and participants could share ideas on the policing of vulnerable groups and interact to seek solutions to the challenges faced by vulnerable goups and communities. The hybrid course was a huge success and we remain grateful to APCOF and AMSHeR for their financial and logistical support.

For more information on upcoming Advanced Human Rights Courses, please visit:
www.chr.up.ac.za/courses-presented