Online Module: The Holocaust and Fundamental Rights

Doc. 10: Guidebook on democratic policing

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Content-Author: Nadja

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The Senior Police Adviser of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), in concert with OSCE participating states and partner organizations, has made pre-existing norms, standards and good principles accessible to practitioners concerned with policing and the administration of justice. It has thus developed the Guidebook on Democratic Policing which is intended to serve as a reference work for good policing practice and internationally-adopted standards. The Guidebook articulates the objectives of democratic police services and forces; the importance of their commitment to the rule of law, policing ethics, and human rights standards.

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III.2 Human Rights

34. The police have particular powers (including the authorization to potentially use force) to temporarily deprive people of their freedom, to limit the full enjoyment of their rights (for example, to stop, question, detain and arrest, seize property, take fingerprints and photographs and conduct intimate body searches) and, under extreme circumstances, to use even lethal force. Furthermore, the police have, in many instances, the discretion to decide whether and how to use these powers. [...]

35. In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials must respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold basic human rights as well as civil and political rights.

 Andrew Bossi, CC-BY-SA-2.5

Discrimination Issues

36. In accordance with the democratic principle of equality before the law, the police are obliged to protect all citizens equally without discrimination and without distinction as to sex, race, colour, language, religion, opinion, social, national or ethic origin, property, birth or other status.

37. According to international human rights standards, States are obliged to provide for "the right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual group or institution". Moreover, vulnerable groups or persons should enjoy particular protection.

38. The protection and promotion of persons belonging to national minorities is an "essential factor for democracy, peace, justice and stability within, and between [OSCE] participating States". Therefore, the police must strive to use their special and unique powers to combat acts motivated by racism and xenophobia.

39. Guaranteeing the equal protection of all before the law also prohibits the police from discriminating against any person on the basis of race, gender, religion, language, colour, political opinion, national origin, property, birth or other status.

40. "Discriminatory policing has the effect of criminalizing entire communities and denying them justice." In this context, special attention must be paid to the practice of ethnic profiling. Profiling, in itself, can be a useful tool to assist law enforcement officers in carrying out their duties. Biased profiling (i.e. selecting individuals solely based on a common trait of a group), however, must be avoided. For instance, “being a member of a specific (ethnic) group who are stereotypically assumed to be more likely to be involved in crime cannot be used as grounds for suspicion”. [...]

The entire guidebook is provided in the download section.


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