ACCP Meeting, Montego Bay, Jamaica, 29th April 2018 - ICRC Statement

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ACCP Meeting
Montego Bay – Jamaica 29th April 2018
ICRC Statement

Dear Commissioners of Police,

In recent decades many countries have seen an increase of the violence that may be social, political or economic in origin. Death and injury, displacement, people going missing, lack of access to basic services, violation of fundamental rights and deprivation of personal liberty are traditionally associated with armed conflicts, but, nowadays, they are also part of other situations of armed violence.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) maintains a dialogue with law enforcement agencies (police and also armed forces exercising policing functions) in countries affected by situations of violence that do not reach the level of an armed conflict. At present, the consequences of these situations, very similar in nature to wars, can be even more harmful for people. 

Law enforcement officials (police and armed forces) in their countries face high levels of crime, which generate suffering in the population and pose a threat to public safety and, therefore, to the police officers who are responsible for maintaining it.

The ICRC is an international organization which seeks to protect and assist people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence. Through dialogue, the ICRC seeks to increase knowledge, understanding and acceptance of its role and work, as well as the international rules and regulations that govern the functions of law enforcement. Thanks to its worldwide experience in such situations and over the past 155 years of existence, the ICRC has forged a solid expertise which, based on its modus operandi – meaning through a bilateral and confidential dialogue with governments and arms carriers – has allowed it to accompany security and armed forces to be better aware of their challenges and be better prepared to embrace them. In the Americas and the Caribbean region, this work is considered as an operational priority for all the ICRC delegations, from Lima to Washington and Canada.

We acknowledge that police officers play an important role in situations of violence due to their responsibilities: maintaining public safety and order, preventing and detecting crime, and providing help and assistance during emergencies. Police organizations can greatly influence the fate of the people affected and the way in which they do so depends, to a large extent, on the way in which they exercise the powers conferred on them such as arrest and detention, search and seizure, and especially in the use of force and firearms.

Police agencies have their legal basis in the laws of their country. The authority, responsibilities and powers of the police are governed by legislation and under criminal law. But such legal documents, although key, are just not enough to guarantee peace, stability and security in a country. This depends, to a large extent, on the ability of police institutions to enforce national laws and maintain public order effectively. The success of law enforcement operations stems from the adoption and implementation of clear procedures, clear coordination mechanisms of police agencies, the attribution of adequate and well trained human resources, and the allocation of material resources to carry out their mission.

One of the main challenges is to identify and understand the practical limits of the use of force. The subject is of paramount importance and timeliness, since many institutions and organizations have turned their eyes to public security as a right to citizenship and to the use of the legal force by the Police. Adding to this, the political, cultural and institutional difficulties for its implementation. These themes have to be analyzed in light of their integration in areas like institutional doctrine, education, training, proper equipment, internal and external control mechanisms and psychosocial support.

Three fundamental principles should be kept in mind: the conception of the right to public security with citizenship demands public security policies based on respect for human rights; the need for guidance and standardization of the procedures for the performance of public security agents to international principles on the use of force; and the objective of gradually reducing lethality rates resulting from actions involving public security agents.

The ICRC, as a humanitarian organization, through its dialogue with police institutions, aims at supporting law enforcement authorities regarding concrete measures that can be implemented to improve the lives of people affected by a situation of violence, strengthen respect for their rights and prevent the recurrence of the violations of those rights.

In the ICRC, we keep the conviction that by translating the international standards to police practice and operability, a true assimilation of these values will be achieved and, with this, a progressive reduction of the victims of all parties involved in situations of violence could be reached.

In the CARICOM, the ICRC has been interacting not only at national level engaging on a bilateral manner with States but also at regional level with CARICOM IMPACS on several issues of interest for the region: integration of international treaties such as The Arms Trade Treaty, the applicability of the Montreux document on the rules applying for private security companies, but also crime or terrorism issues.  Today, we reiterate our will to continue working next to CARICOM polices forces supporting them in the implementation of any measure aimed at strengthening the knowledge of the international standards on the use of force and thus, helping in reducing humanitarian consequences linked to situations of violence which we take for sure is an essential objective that we all share in this meeting.

Thank you for your attention,