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Last Friday, Dr. Alice Edwards, Head of the CTI Secretariat, presented at a professional online training course on “Human Rights Compliant Policing”, organised by the University of Oslo’s Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, in partnership and with the support of the Asia-Europe Foundation. The training course was addressed to 28 participants from 16 countries in Asia and Europe*, including police chiefs, inspectors and sergeants, investigators and prosecutors, as well as representatives from police training centres and legal aid bodies.
Dr. Edwards spoke on the “Human Rights Implications of Investigative Interviewing – Associated Safeguards”, a topic that has been one of CTI’s long-standing thematic priorities to prevent torture and ill-treatment. Edwards highlighted the relevance and importance of viewing the implementation of safeguards against torture and ill-treatment as a fully integrated part of applying the investigative interviewing methodology. She pointed out that “There are practical reasons for observing safeguards against torture and ill-treatment, which essentially means, respecting the rights of suspects. In particular, informing suspects of their rights, and observing those rights, builds the credibility of the police interviewer.” She added, “It is hard to build rapport if the person being interviewed does not trust the police or believe that he or she will be treated fairly.”
In her presentation, Dr. Edwards’ explained the meaning and legal and practical scope of a number of primary safeguards which reduce and de-incentivise police from using coercive interviewing methods, namely a suspect’s right to a lawyer, a medical examination, and to notify a third party of the arrest or detention. She further mentioned other key safeguards, including: prompt judicial oversight of arrest and custody, audio and video recording of police interviews, and keeping detention records.
During a Q&A session, the issue of how countries with limited financial and human resources, or countries which are geographically vast, can implement such safeguards, was raised. Edwards highlighted the need to think more creatively about implementation, and to use technology and innovation. In light of these real constraints, she suggested a gradual implementation or triage of some safeguards. Regarding the right to a lawyer, for example, she recommended that in plans for gradual implementation that access to a lawyer could be prioritised for those accused of the most serious offences. She also mentioned how in some countries solicitor duty rosters, or engaging paralegals or lawyers working for pro bono legal clinics, have produced greater access to legal advice. She also observed that with technological advances, States are in a better position than in the past to ensure video or audio recording of interviews, as the technology has become cheaper and more widely accessible.
*Participating countries included: Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Croatia, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia and Viet Nam.
About the Convention against Torture Initiative:
CTI is an inter-governmental initiative, promoting the universal ratification and implementation of the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT). The Initiative is being spearheaded by the Governments of Chile, Denmark, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia and Morocco, and is supported by a full-time Secretariat based in Geneva. CTI fosters constructive dialogue and international cooperation between States, and offers technical and capacity building support to governments. We are encouraged by a Group of Friends, which is open to all UN Member States and serves as a platform for the exchange of knowledge, experience and ideas on how to overcome obstacles to ratification and implementation of the UNCAT.
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