Conference focuses on police accountability in Latin America and Caribbean

  • Date

    Fri 15 Jan 21

Essex Human Rights Centre is to take a leading role in a new conference looking at police oversight in Latin America and the Caribbean.

A new conference, focusing on police accountability in Latin America and the Caribbean, will feature a range of experts from Essex Human Rights Centre.

Police in the Spotlight, which opens on 18 January, will feature Professor Clara Sandoval-Villalba, Dr Carla Ferstman, and three of the Centre’s Fellows: Graham Dossett, Conor Foley and Aisling Reidy.

The five-day conference, supported by the Human Rights Centre, Amnesty International Americas and the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Jamaica, seeks to foster dialogue between all parties through a range of panels, workshops and working groups.

Dr Andrew Fagan, Director of the Human Rights Centre, said: “We’re very happy to be working with Amnesty Americas and INDECOM on this important conference. Global media coverage over the last year has highlighted again the tragic impact of police brutality. Improving police accountability is essential if we are not only to stop the killings, but address issues like sexual violence, unlawful detention, police corruption and abuses of a range of other rights.

“To begin this work, we need to bring together all parties to engage in constructive dialogue and we hope this conference will inspire further projects, publications and discussions that move forward the debate, in Latin America, the Caribbean and worldwide.”

The conference will open with a panel featuring Agnès Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Joel Hernández, President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Erika Guevara Rosas, Director for the Americas at Amnesty International and Lidiane Malaquini of the Brazilian organization Redes de Maré. The panel will look at the state of human rights violations, police and accountability in the Americas from a regional and human rights perspective, with the discussion moderated by Colombian journalist Claudia Julieta Duque.

Graham Dossett, a former career police officer, will be taking part in a panel on Command Responsibility. He said: “It is imperative that law enforcers are not themselves law breakers and that they only ever use force or firearms where necessary, proportionate and lawful.

“Good, responsible command activity is an essential first tier in accountability. By observing and, if necessary, challenging police behaviour we can ensure there is no 'mission creep' and that police and security forces do not set their own operational and ethical parameters. Continued experience shows that oversight and accountability are still critically required mechanisms.”

The Human Rights Centre’s involvement comes against the background of ongoing work, in the region and on police conduct more generally.

In April 2020, Professor Clara Sandoval helped win a landmark judgment at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, supporting the human rights of LGBTI people across the continent, after a decade of litigation.

In June, members contributed to Tear Gas: an investigation, a new platform from Amnesty International which takes a comprehensive look at tear gas as a policing tool.

Members of the Essex Transitional Justice Network continue to work on issues across Latin America.