An effective and human rights-based approach to law enforcement requires legitimacy, non-discrimination, and public scrutiny. Trust in law enforcement agencies must come from commitment to the law and international standards, respect for all people and tolerance to those who come into contact with law enforcement, and exemplary in behaviour of law enforcement agents. Police can be part of building trust in the institutions of the state and, significantly, policing can be a trusted component of the criminal justice system.
The events unfolding in the United States of America since the killing of George Floyd highlight the dire and urgent need for law enforcement to be part of a broader conversation, in all societies, about values we share and differences we cherish. George Floyd is one of the many names of those killed at the hand of police in the USA and elsewhere.
UN Photo/Loey Felipe, protestors in New York City demonstrating against the killing of Michael Brown in August 2014
Our ambition at Penal Reform International is to see criminal justice systems that uphold human rights for all and do no harm, to allow the development of safe societies.
We pride ourselves for our work with police in Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East. We sensitise law enforcement to gender and build female police units, support efforts to end torture and ill-treatment, work on addressing corruption within and by law enforcement agents, support the integration of rights of the child in police work-methods; we want to do more, as these days have made it clear that in too many places police is not trusted as a fair and respectful criminal justice actor – all too often justifiably.
We join those mourning the loss of their children, brothers and sisters, parents, relatives, and friends at the hands of law enforcement agents and race-fuelled violence. We join the calls of millions of people protesting for justice and change. Lives and integrity of those belonging to ethnic and religious minorities or foreign nationals and people without proof of identity appear too often to matter less in the eyes of actors of criminal justice systems. Therefore, we, too, say Black Lives Matter.
Justice will not come through silencing those chanting Black Lives Matter, but through hearing them, learning from failure and building fair and effective criminal justice systems where criminal justice actors, including law enforcement, are held fully accountable.