Who Polices the Police? The Role of Independent Agencies in Criminal Investigations
The events of 2020—ranging from the death of George Floyd at the hands of an officer of the Minneapolis Police Department, to the systemic torture of protesters in Belarus, to the deaths of individuals detained during lockdowns in India and Kenya—provide stark reminders that the state’s use of force, if left unchecked, can easily turn to brutality. While governments rely on police and other law-enforcement agents to maintain order and investigate crimes, the question of who will investigate crimes allegedly committed by the police themselves remains a critical human rights issue.
Despite the global growth of civilian oversight efforts, abuse and scandals persist. While many civilian review boards have been created to oversee police, very few have adequate investigative powers. Most only have the power to make recommendations for disciplinary action or prosecution, with no ability to implement or ensure follow-up on those recommendations. Clearly, there is a need for more oversight agencies with greater independence and more extensive powers.
This executive summary of a forthcoming briefing paper explores the efforts of independent investigative agencies (IIAs) to investigate and prosecute allegations of serious crimes against police and other state agents. It examines approaches that various IIAs have taken in conducting criminal investigations and prosecutions of state agents for crimes including death, serious injury, sexual assault, and torture. The paper includes recommendations for improving the independence, efficacy, and transparency of IIAs.
Prisons and Jails Should be Prioritized for the Coronavirus Vaccine
Under international law, vaccinating prison populations against COVID-19 is an obligation that falls to the government—and because they are particularly at risk, incarcerated persons should be among the first groups to be vaccinated.
Justice Initiative Welcomes African Court’s Ruling against “Arbitrary” Vagrancy Laws
In a landmark advisory opinion, the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights found that vagrancy laws on the books of at least 38 African countries discriminate against women, children, people with disabilities, and others.
Equality Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Adopts New Resolution on Police Profiling
The Open Society Justice Initiative applauds the adoption of a draft resolution by the Equality Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) calling on all European States to pass laws to ban ethnic profiling.