UNGA74 Side Event: Professionalising Police and Preventing Torture

Monday, October 14, 2019

On 14 October 2019, at the UN Headquarters in New York, the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the UN, as a core State of the Convention against Torture Initiative (CTI), hosted a side-event on ‘Professionalising Police and Preventing Torture’, ahead of the annual interactive dialogue with the torture mandate holders as part of the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee. The event was opened by H.E. Marie-Louise Wegter, Deputy Permanent Representative of Denmark, and moderated by Dr. Alice Edwards, Head of the CTI Secretariat.

This event included the expert participation of Dr. Jens Modvig, Chair of the UN Committee against Torture (CAT), Sir Malcolm Evans, Chair of the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT), Professor Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Ms. Gaby Oré Aguilar, Member of the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, Dr. Homer Venters, physician and expert in community-oriented correctional health services, and Mr. Mohammed Alam, Police Planning Officer at UN POLICE (UNPOL).

The discussion emphasized the importance of regulatory frameworks, transparency and accountability in professionalizing police practices, as well as operational training, which would have dual outcomes: such measures would help prevent torture and ill-treatment, and they would enhance the fairness and efficiency of justice systems. Although the police are regularly subjects of allegations of abuse, it was acknowledged that they are important allies and partners in the national and global fights to eradicate torture from the toolkit of governments.

There was agreement among the speakers that areas for reform often included training and capacity, recruitment, salary and promotions systems, confession-oriented criminal investigations, corruption, gaps in forensic science, and lack of internal and external oversight bodies. While resources and capacity remain key challenges in many countries, there were various suggestions put forward as to how safeguards could be implemented in innovative ways. Additional good practices and existing instruments and initiatives designed to professionalize police services were also shared.

The panelists underlined that organizational change and institutional reforms in policing allows countries to better implement the provisions of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT), in particular those related to prevention and accountability.

This event focused on policing comes shortly after the CTI Global Seminar held in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 1-2 October 2019, and which gathered law enforcement officials from all regions of the world to discuss cooperation and innovation of police agencies in order to better prevent abuses.

CTI, through its core States and its Secretariat, stands ready to support States in the implementation of UNCAT. The Secretariat can be reached by email for queries or requests for support at