Saturday, March 24, 2007

Police Reform in South Asia: Sharing of Experiences

1. Background

Over the last eight years, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has been working on issues related to police reform. During this time, CHRI has worked on police reform and police accountability across the Commonwealth, and has particularly focused on catalysing a reform movement in India. CHRI has identified the enormous potential for and value in sharing experiences of policing and challenges to reform in South Asia, and is facilitating a workshop on police reform in South Asia in New Delhi, March 2007.

CHRI recognises the importance that community focused, transparent and accountable policing has on democracy, development and the protection and promotion of human rights.

2. Police reform in South Asia

Presently, there is growing debate on police reform in all the five Commonwealth countries of South Asia – Bangladesh, Maldives, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Both Bangladesh and Pakistan have witnessed donor driven police reform initiatives. In 2002, Pakistan enacted a new law to govern the police. Pakistan’s Police Order is the most modern law in all the five countries, but is yet to be implemented in spirit.

In India, a Committee set up by the Federal Government has drafted a new Model Police Bill and in a separate initiative, the Supreme Court has directed all the state governments to institutionalise best practices in policing. However, state governments that are required to implement police reform are resisting change.

Sri Lanka gave impetus to police accountability in a 2002 constitutional amendment that saw the establishment of one of the strongest civilian oversight bodies in the Commonwealth, but once again lack of political will subverted the entire process of reform.

The Maldives does not have a law to govern the police and is in the process of enacting a Police Act. Meanwhile, police accountability is a key policy focus of the government’s Roadmap for Reform policy document, which has led to the creation of a Police Integrity Commission.

3. Aim

South Asia faces huge problems in terms of police brutality and a lack of accountability, yet few organisations in the region work on systemic police reforms.

This workshop provides the first opportunity to different stakeholders and voices to share experiences and best practices from across the region, particularly from a human rights perspective. The workshop will bring together government, media, police, civil society and human rights institution representatives from across the region with a view to examine current challenges and debates on police reform in the region and to look at some of the best practices from around the globe. As well as a forum for open discussion and debate of challenges and experiences, the workshop will include a focus on the technical aspects of reform, exploring the structure and mandates of existing and possible mechanisms that aim to create stronger police accountability. The workshop also aims to put together a plan for moving forward with the reforms process in each of the jurisdictions in South Asia.

4. Workshop details

The Roundtable will focus on two key policing issues: the police/executive relationship and police accountability.

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