Police brutality, including torture and other ill-treatment, continued at alarming levels in 2021, as stated by United Nations experts in August 2021.
From Colombia to Tunisia, from Mexico to Belarus, arbitrary and disproportionate policing practices were documented in the context of the pandemic, when enforcing curfews, lockdowns and other public health-related measures. Excessive force, involving the use of lethal and less-lethal weapons – batons, tasers, etc - was used against protesters in all regions of the world, including climate activists, human rights defenders, migrants, indigenous peoples, as well as in the context of protests rooted in deepening socio-economic inequalities exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pushing for laws against torture
In January 2021, we organised a virtual thematic briefing with the United Nations Committee against Torture, other experts, and civil society representatives on the extra-custodial use of force, or police violence against people who are not in custody. The briefing resulted in a report that highlights the need to apply the international anti-torture framework to counter this alarming trend, which is not limited to authoritarian countries.
"The police shot her twice in the head"
Police violence erupted in Colombia, when young protesters decided to challenge the government's policies.
We organised or participated in various events throughout the year to present the findings of the briefing report and advocate for more robust guidelines and safeguards against extra-custodial torture. During the September session of the Human Rights Council, we organised a virtual side-event entitled “Ending extra-custodial torture against protesters: Monitoring and accountability strategies to prevent police brutality”. Participants included UN Special Rapporteur on torture Professor Nils Melzer, International Network of Civil Liberties Organisations (INCLO), Omega Research Foundation, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE-ODIHR), among others. We also participated in the panel discussion “Policing during a crisis: learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic”, in the framework of a report published by Fair Trials and APCOF.